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Hon. Mem. Imp. Acad. Sc. St. Petersburg, etc., etc., President. 

Rear-admiral C. R. DRINKWATER BETHUNE, C.B. ) 

\ Vice-Presidents. 
The Rt. Hon. Sir DAVID DUNDAS, M.P. ) 

J. BARROW, Esq., F.R.S. 


Captain CRACROFT, R.N. 



R. W. GREY, Esq, M.P. 

T. HODGKIN, Esq., M.D. 


His Excellency the COUNT DE LAVRADIO. 

R. H. MAJOR, Esq., F.S.A. 



Major-General Sir HENRY C. RAWLINSON, K.C.B. 


CLEMENTS R. MARK HAM, Esq., Honorary Secrexak\. 


Map of Vartbema's route ...... to face title-p:ige. 

Section from Gastaldi's Map ..... „ page cxx. 



This translation made from the first Italian edition of 1510 ; truthful- 
ness of Varthema's narrative, and simjjlicity of his style ; later 

- editions more or less faulty ; the present version intended to be a 
faithful representative of the original text ; Varthema's work imme- 
diately attracted attention, i-iii. Different editions and translations 
enumerated : Italian ; Latin ; German ; Spanish ; French ; Dutch ; 
English, iii-xvi. 


Deficiency of all the aiithorities as to Varthema's antecedents, xvii ; not 
supplied by allusions in his dedication, xix ; notice of the Lady Agnesina, 
Duchess of Albi and Tagliacozzo, to whom he dedicates, xix ; Eamusio's 
preface has no information, and his edition a third-hand version, xxi ; 
particulars derivable with more or less certainty from the narrative 
itself, xxii ; his motives for travelling, xxiii ; character of his narrative, 
xxiii ; scanty recompense, xxiv. 

Date of his leaving Europe, xxv ; remarks on his notices of Cairo and 
-Egypt under the Mamluks, ib. ; Syria and Damascus, xxvi ; his enrol- 
ment as a Mamliik, and reserve as to his profession of Islam, his Mus- 
sulman name (Tunas or Jonah), and his knowledge of Muhammedanism, 
xxvi ; remarks on such conformity to Islamism, xxvii ; he joins the Hajj 
Caravan from Damascus, ib. ; the only European who has reached Meccah 
by that route, xxvii ; his sketches of the desert and Bedawin, xxviii ; his 
notice of a colony of Jews near El-Medinah, and the fact authenticated, 
ib. ; his description of El-Medinah and correction of fables about Mukam- 
med's coffin, xxix ; his journey on to Meccah, xxx ; his notice of the 
politics of the time confirmed by Arabic authorities, the Kurrat El- 
Ay Cm and Riuih er-Ruah, xxx-xxxv; his account of Meccah, its visitors, 
holy places, and ceremonies, xxxv ; wonderful truth of his descriptions, 
as confirmed incidentally by Burckhardt and expressly by Burton, xxxvi. 

Varthema escapes to Juddah from the Caravan, xxxvi-vii ; his voyage down 
the Red Sea and arrival at Aden, xxxviii ; suspected as a Christian spy 
and imprisoned, and sent to the Sultan of southern Yemen at Radaa, 
xxxix ; corroboration of a part of Varthema's story here from the nar- 
ratives of Portuguese acts of piracy at this time, xxxix — xli ; outline 
of the contemporary politics of Yemen from Arabic authorities, xli — xliv, 
and incidental corroboration of Varthema's narrative, xliv; intervention 
of one of the Sultan's wives in Varthema's favour, and his pretended 
madness, xlv ; morality of the harini, ib. j Varthema obtains leave to 
visit Aden, where he engages a passage to India, and spends the interval 
before its departure on an excursion through Yemen, xlvi ; he is the first 
European traveller who has described that country, and scarcely any but 



Niebuhr have followed, xlvi ; abstract of his route, xlvii ; returns to Aden, 
embarks, runs for Africa and visits Zaila and Berbera; truth of his de- 
scriptions, xlviii ; circumstantial evidence of the season at which this 
voyage was made, xlix ; Varthema crosses the Indian ocean to Diu in 
Guzerat ; thence to Gogo ; and thence westward to Julfar in the Per- 
sian Gulf, Maskat, and Hormuz, 1 ; notices of Homiuz and its his- 
tory, 1, li. 

Varthema's visit to Eri or Herat, lii ; difficulty about his " large and fine 
river ;" Shiraz, liii ; his meeting with a Persian merchant " Cozazionor," 
who becomes his travelling companion ; advantages of this to Varthema, 
liv ; they start for Samarcand, but are turned back by the Sufi's perse- 
cution of the Shi'iis; confirmation of this from history, lv,lvi; Cozazionor 
proposes to give Varthema his niece in marriage, lvii ; they reach Honnnz 
and embark for India, arriving at Cheo or Jooah on the Indus ; they 
reach Cambay, lviii ; truth of particulars regarding it. 

Political state of "Western India at this period, lviii ; accession to the 
throne of Guzerat of Mahmud Shah, surnamed Bigarrah, who reigned 
during Varthema's visit, lix ; Mussulman kingdom of the Deccan, its 
vicissitudes and subdivision ; 'Adil Shah of Bijapur, Varthema's " King 
of Deccan," lx ; the Brahminical kingdom of Bijayanagar ; Ranrraj of 
that state, Varthema's " King of Narsinga," lxi ; Rajah of Cannanore; 
kingdom of the Zaniuri Rajah or Zamorin, lxii ; history of his pre- 
eminence as given by the Portuguese ; Quilon, lxiii ; Chayl ; kingdom 
of Bengal under the Purbi sultans. 

Varthema's account of the Jains and the Joghis, lxiv ; his description of 
Sultan Mahmud's mustachioes confirmed by the Mussulman historians. 
Varthema's journey along the coast, inland to Bijapur and back to the 
coast, and so to Cannanore, lxv ; his abstinence from communication 
with the Portuguese already established there; visit to Bijayanagar, 
and remarks on his notices of the coinage ; return to the coast and 
journey along it to Calicut, lxvi ; fullness, truth, and originality of his 
descriptions of manners and peculiarities here, of the distinctions of 
castes and singular marriage customs, lxvii ; remarks upon these. 

Varthema and his companion quit Calicut by the Backwaters, for Kayan- 
Kulam and Colon or Quilon, lxix ; thence to Chayl ; position of the 
latter ; city of Cioromandel, lxx, probably Negapatani ; their visit to 
Ceylon ; they proceed to Paleachet or Pulicat, lxxi ; remarks suggested 
by the narrative as to the freedom of trade, and protection of foreign 
traders in India in those days, lxxi ; many subordinate ports then fre- 
quented even by foreign vessels are now abandoned and have disap- 
peared from the maps, lxxii ; causes of the greater commercial centraliza- 
tion of the present day, and doubts whether the improvement of access 
to the old intermediate ports would not have been attended by better 
results ; general prosperity which seems to have prevailed, and for which 
a much less equal distribution of property has now been substituted ; 
impartial administration of justice in old India; the comparative costli- 
ness and tardiness of our system ; humorous story in illustration related 
by an Arab merchant, lxxiv. 

Sketch of the political geography of the Transgangetic Peninsula, lxxvi ; 
Pegu, Siam, Ava, and Toungoo ; the various kingdoms of Sumatra ; 
" Moors" and "Pagans;" Java, lxxvii; sovereigns of the farther islands 
visited by Varthema. 

The travellers sail from Pulicat to Tarnassari or Tenasserim, lxxviii ; 
truthful features of the description ; Varthema's notice of the Hornbill, 
lxxix ; of extraordinary marriage usages ; voyage to the " city of Ban- 
ghella," lxxx ; discussion as to the whereabouts of the city so indicated, 
with various quotations ; wealth and abundance of products, lxxxii ; 
meeting with Christians from the city of Sarnau, and probable identifi- 
i at ion of that place, from passage in Odorico ; remarks on the interest- 
ing character of Fra Odorico's narrative, lxxxiii ; these Christians advised 


Varthema's companion to visit Pegu with them, lxxxiv ; description of 
Pegu, Lxxxv; Varthema's statement about the existence of Christians 
there, Lxxxv ; interview with the King of Pegu, lxxxvi. 

Departure for Malacca, lxxxvii; "Great Biver," viz. Straits of Malacca, 
lxxxvii ; character of the place and people, and corroboration of Var- 
thema's narrative ; Sumatra, Ixxxviii ; questions raised by the text 
regarding coins and silk in that island ; voyage to the Spice Islands 
undertaken, xc ; this part of the route never previously recorded by any 
European, but it would be rash to say never travelled, xci ; the Nutmeg 
or Banda Islands ; Monoch or the Moluccas ; which of the latter did 
Varthenia visit ? xcii ; visit to Borneo, the part not determined, xciii ; 
curious particidars as to appliances for navigation, xciv ; the Southern 
Cross, xcv; and stories heard of apparently antarctic regions,xcv; curiosity 
of the Sarnau Christians about Western Christendom ; this may have 
awakened Varthema's desires for home and the abandonment of his 
false profession, xcvi ; arrival at Java ; a plea for the account of it 
given by Varthema against Mr. Crawfurd's condemnation ; mutilated 
children, xcvii. 

Return to Malacca and thence to Negapatam, and Calicut, xcviii ; the 
two Milanese gun-founders ; Varthema's appearance as a physician, and 
as Imam ; his journey to Cannanore and escape into the Portuguese 
garrison, xcix. 

Varthema present at the sea fight off Cannanore, c ; employed as factor 
at Cochin ; in the attack on Ponani ; his knighthood ; remarks on the 
fanaticism and violence of the Portuguese. 

Varthema finally quits India, ci; remarks on the rapid growth of the 
Portuguese power in the East, and its rapid decay, cii ; their religious 
conquests have survived their temporal sovereignty, ciii ; success of 
Boman Catholic mission in India greater than that of the Beformed 
churches, civ ; remarks of Heber quoted. 

Mozambique, cvi ; summary of history of the Muhammedan settlements 
on the coast of Eastern Africa from Krapf, cvii ; the Portuguese ride 
and its fall, cviii ; inscription over the gateway of Monibasa ; rise of the 
'Amman Seyyeds of Maskat and Zanzibar, ex ; Varthema's inland excur- 
sion at Mozambique, and the illustration it affords of the dealings of the 
civilized with the uncivilized, cxi. 

Varthema's arrival in Europe, and conclusion of his narrative, cxii. 

The Editor's acknowledgments to various gentlemen, cxiii. 

Postscript. On the site of the ancient city of Bengala. 

Further evidence as to the existence of Bengala as a city and port distinct 
from Satgong and Chittagong, cxiv ; some authors, however, mention the 
two latter and not Bengala, cxvii ; abstract of the data as to these three 
cities afforded by the principal old maps in the British Museum, cxix ; 
Bengala appears for the last time in 1740 ; the site of Bengala, and its 
probable destruction by the river as supposed by Eennell, cxx. 

Advantages of Travel, from the Arabic. 


(The headings in the larger type are those of the original text.) 

Privilege of printing granted to Varthema by Raphael Bishop of Portueri 
and Cardinal of St. George, the Pope's Chamberlain. 

Dedication to Countess of Albi and Duchess of Tagliacozzo, 1-4. 

First Chapter concerning Alexandria, 5. 

a 2 


Chapter concerning Cairo, 5, 6. 

Size of the city, 5 ; Sultan, Mamelukes, and Moors, 6. 

Chapter concerning Baruti, Tripoli, and Aleppo, 6, 7. 

Sails to Baruti (Beyroot), 6; St. George and the Dragon, 7; goes to 
Tripoli, ih. ; to Aleppo, ib. 

Chapter concerning Aman and Menin, 8. 

First Chapter concerning Damascus, 8-11. 

Beauty of Damascus, 8 ; Varthema learns Moorish (Arabic) ; Castle 
of Damascus ; story of its builder, a Florentine, 9 ; government of 
Damascus under the Sultan of Cairo, and oppressive exactions, 10 ; 
watchmen, 11. 

Second Chapter concerning said Damascus, 11, 12. 

Riches; fruits and flowers; water and fountains, 11; Mosque of St. 
Zachariah; legendary sites of St. Pavd's history and others, 12. 

Third Chapter concerning [the Mamelukes in] Damascus, 13-15. 
Mamelukes, their training, pay, and customs, 13; rudeness to ladies; 
dress of ladies ; divorces ; cheese, milk, and goats, 14 ; truffles ; dress 
of Moors ; Mameluke oppression ; Christian merchants, 15. 


Chapter showing the route from Damascus to Mecca, wherein 
some Arabs are concerned, 16-19. 

Varthema joins the caravan to Mecca in the character of a Mame- 
luke ; travels to Mezeribe, 16 ; Zambei a great Arab lord ; his plun- 
dering excursions ; Arabs described, 17 ; numbers in the caravan, 
and its marshalling ; length of the journey to Mecca; food of camels ; 
halts to water, 18 ; fights with the Arabs at watering places ; excel- 
lence and skill of the Mamelukes as soldiers, archers, and horsemen, 19. 

Chapter concerning the city of Sodom and Gomorrah, 19-21. 

Valley of Sodom ; barren and blood-red soil, 19 ; deaths from thirst 
in the caravan ; mountain with a well, and fight with 24,000 Arabs ; 
camel intrenchment, 20; black-mail paid; fight renewed and many 
Arabs killed, 21. , 

Chapter concerning a mountain inhabited by Jews, 22-25. 

Mountain in which dwelt Jews, naked, short and black, 22, 23 ; 
tank of water, and turtle-doves, 24 ; arrives at Medinathalnabi (El- 
Medinah) ; barrenness round it ; palm-garden ; fables about Maho- 
met's tomb denied, 25. 

Chapter concerning where Mahomet and his Companions were 
buried, 26-28. 

The mosque described ; books of Mahomet and his Companions, 26 ; 
tombs of Mahomet, Haly, Babacher, Othman, Aumar, and Fatoma, 
27 ; dissensions of Mahometan sectaries, 28. 

Chapter concerning the Temple and Sepulchre of Mahomet and 
his Companions, 28-31. 

Superior of the Mosque tries to trick the caravan, 28; Varthema' s 
A nil lie, 29 ; pretended supernatural illumination of the sepulchre, 30; 

no truth about the loadstone, 31. 


Chapter concerning the journey to go from Medina to Mecca, 31-35. 
Pilots of the caravan, 31 ; well of St. Mark, 32 ; sea of sand (which 
shoidd have been mentioned before the Jews' mountain) and its 
dangers, 33 ; remarkable mountain and grotto, 34 ; two fights with 
Arabs ; arrival at Mecca ; four brothers fighting for the lordship 
thereof, 35. 

Chapter showing how Mecca is constructed, and why the Moors 
go to Mecca, 35-37. 

Description of Mecca, 35 ; its governors ; caravan enters the city, 36 ; 
barrenness round the city renders it dependent for food on foreign 
parts, 37. 

Chapter concerning the merchandize in Mecca, 38. 

Chapter concerning the pardoning in Mecca, 38-41. 

The Great Temple or Mosque described, 38 ; the tower (El-Kiiaba), 39 ; 
the well, 40; ceremonies performed by the pilgrims, 41. 

Chapter concerning the manner of the sacrifices in Mecca, 42-4G. 

Sacrifices of sheep at a motmtain ; poor pilgrims, 42 ; discourse of the 
Cadi; returns to Mecca; stone-throwing, and legend of its origin, 44; 
doves of Mecca, 45. 

Chapter concerning the unicorns in the Temple of Mecca, not very 
common in other places, 46-49. 

Chapter concerning some occurrences between Mecca and Zida, a 
port of Mecca, 49-52. 

Varthema recognized as a European by a certain Moor, 49 ; but pro- 
fesses to be a Mahometan convert, 50; the Moor conceals him in his 
house, and the Damascus caravan departs, 51 ; whilst Varthema goes 
with another caravan to Zida (Juddah), 52. 

Chapter concerning Zida, the port of Mecca, and of the Red 
Sea, 52-54. 

Zida described; Varthema hides in a mosque, 52; agrees with a 
ship-master going to Persia, and sads, 54. 

Chapter showing why the Red Sea is not navigable, 54. 


Chapter concerning the City of Gezan [Gazan], and of its fer- 
tility, 55, 56. 

Chapter concerning some people called Baduin [Bedawin], 56-57. 

Chapter concerning the island of the Red Sea called Chama- 
ram [Camran], 57, 58. 

The island and its productions, 57 ; the mouth of the Red Sea, and 
island of Bebmendo (Bab el-Mandeb) ; arrival at Aden, 58. 

Chapter concerning the city of Aden, and of some customs respect- 
ing the merchants, 59, 65. 

Aden described; intense heat; Castle (of Seerah), 59; mode of 
securing the Sultan's dues from ships; Varthema denounced as a 
Christian spy, and put in irons, 60 ; sent to the Sultan at a city 
called Rhada (Radaa), 61 ; dialogue with the Sultan ; the author 


professes to be a Mahomedan, but cannot utter the creed, and is 
cast into prison, 63 ; Sultan's guard of Abyssinians ; tlieir dress and 
arms, (34 ; camels and tents, Go. 

Chapter concerning the partiality of the women of Arabia Felix for 
white men, 65-68. 

The Queen's kindness to Varthenia, 65 ; he feigns madness, 66, 67 ; 
he is removed to the palace, 68. 

Chapter concerning the liberality of the Queen, 68-^3. 

The Queen makes much of him, but he evades her advances, 68-70 ; 
she procures his release from the Sultan, 71 ; he goes to Aden and 
engages a passage to India, 73. 

Chapter concerning Lagi, a city of Arabia Felix, and concerning 
Aiaz, and the market in Aiaz, and the castle Dante, 73-75. 
Whilst the ship delays he travels over Arabia Felix; to Lagi (Lahej), 
73; Aiaz ('Az'az), 74; Mahomedan sects; strong city of Dante 
(Damt), 75. 

Chapter concerning Almacarana, a city of Arabia Felix, and of its 
abundance, 75-77. 

Goes to Almacrana (El-Makranah), a city on a mountain, 75 ; great 
reservoir; and the Sultan's treasure kept there, 77. 

Chapter concerning Reame, a city of Arabia Felix, and of its air, 
and of the customs of the inhabitants, 77, 78. 

Goes to Eeame (Yerim), 77; fat-tailed sheep; seedless grapes ; 
longevity of people, 78 ; fashion of horns. 

Chapter concerning Sana, a city of Arabia Felix, and of the strength 
and cruelty of the King's son, 78-80. 

Goes to Sana (Sanaa), 78; the Sultan's endeavours to capture it, 79; 
the Sidtan of Sana's mad son, who eats human flesh, 80. 

Chapter concerning Taesa and Zibit and Damar, very large cities 
of Arabia Felix, 80-82. 

Goes to Taesa (Ta'ez), 80 ; its antiquity and buildings, 81 ; goes to 
Zibit (Zebid) ; goes to Damar (Dhainar), 82. 

Chapter concerning the Sultan of all the above-mentioned cities, 
and wherefore he is called by the name of Sechamir, 83, 84. 

The name explained ; the Sultan puts no one to death but in war ; 
but had thousands in prison. 

Chapter concerning apes, and some animals like lions very hostile 
to man, 84, 85. 

Returns to Aden, 84 ; finds a mountain with numerous apes, and 
destructive animals Hke Uons (supposed hyenas), 85 ; goes on board 

Discourse touching some places of Ethiopia, 85. 

An accident sends them to the coast of Ethiopia, where they enter the 
port of Zeila (Zaila). 

Chapter concerning Zeila, a city of Ethiopia, and of the abundance 


of it, and concerning some animals of the said city, such as 
sheep and cows, 86-88. 

Traffic of Zeila, slave trade, &c, 88 ; products ; oil of zerzalino ; fat- 
tailed Berbera sheep, 87 ; twisted-tailed sheep ; stag-horned cows ; 
one-horned cows ; the Sidtan, his soldiers, &c, 88. 

Chapter concerning Barbara, an island of Ethiopia, and of its 
people, 88-90. 
Arrival at Barbara (Berbera), 88 ; sails for Persia, 90. 


Chapter concerning Diuobandierrumi, and Goa, and Giulfar, lands 
of Meschet, a port of Persia, 91-93. 

After twelve days reaches Diuobandierrunii (Diu in Guzerat), 91 ; 
goes to Goa (Gogha), 92; to Giulfar (Julfar in the Persian Gidf), 93 ; 
and Meschet (Maskat). 

Chapter concerning Ormus, a city and island of Persia, and how 
they get very large pearls at it by fishing, 94, 95. 

Chapter concerning the Sultan of Ormus, and of the cruelty of the 
son against the Sultan his father, his mother, and his bro- 
thers, 96-99. 

The Sultan's eleven sons, the eldest a devil, the youngest simple, 9G; 
the former murders his father, mother, and brothers, except the 
youngest ; he tries to get rid of two powerful favourites of his father, 
and is slain by one of them, 97, 98 ; who causes the younger brother 
to be proclaimed Sultan, 99 ; the many merchants of Ormus. 

Chapter concerning Eri in Corozani, of Persia, and of its riches, 
and of the abundance of many things, and especially of rhu- 
barb, 99-101. 

Varthema passe 3 to Persia, and travels to Eri (Herat) in Corazani 
(Kkorassan), 99; abundance of silk and rhubarb; population, 101. 

Chapter concerning the river Eufra, which I believe to be the 
Euphrates, 101-103. 

Arrives at a large river called by the people Eufra (? Pnlwan), 101 ; 
reaches the city Schirazo (Shiraz) ; turquoises and rubies from 
Balachsam (Badakksan), 102 ; musk, and its power when pure ; 
character of the Persians; liberality and kindness of Cozazionor 

(Khawaja ), a Persian merchant who proposes that Varthema 

should travel with him; they set out towards Sambragante (Sainar- 
cand), 103. 

Chapter concerning Sambragante (as it is called), a very large city 
like Cairo, and of the persecution by the Sofn, 103, 104. 
The greatness of Sambragante and its king, 103; but they are 
hindered from going thither by the Soffi's (Shah Isma'il es-Sufi's) 
violence against believers in Bubachar, Othnian, and Auniur (viz. 
Sunnis) ; Cozazionor proposes to give Varthema his beautiful niece 
Samis (Shams) to wife, 104; they return to Eri, and thence to Ormus, 
and take ship for India, where they arrive at the port of Cheo (Jooa 
in the Indus delta) . 



Chapter concerning Combeia, a city of India, abounding in all 
things, 105-107. 

The Indus, and city of Combeia (Cambay), 105; its spices (or drugs), 
106 ; cotton j and precious stones, 107. 

Chapter concerning the estate of the Sultan of the very noble city 
of Combeia, 107-110. 

Sultan Machamuth (Mahrnud Bigarrah), 107; the Guzeratis, their 
virtues and dress, 108; the Sultan's pomp and elephants, 109; his 
huge mustachioes ; his daily eating of poison, and spurting it on those 
he desires to kill; his embraces fatal, 110; great trade and riches of 
Cambay, 111. 

Chapter concerning the manner of living and customs of the King 
of the Joghe, 111 113. 

The Pagan king of the Joghe, his people, and their pilgrimages, 111 ; 
their dress, and various acts of devotion, and reputed sanctity, 112 ; 
their wars with Sultan Machamuth, 113. 

Chapter concerning the city of Ceval [Chaul] and its customs, and 
the bravery of its people, 113, 114. 

Chapter concerning Dabuli, a city of India, 114, 115. 

Chapter concerning Goga, an island of India, and the King of the 
same, 1 15, 116. 

Varthema and his companion go to Goga (Goa), 115 ; Pardai a gold 
coin of the country (pagodas) ,- Mameluke garrison and their wars 
with the King of Narsinga, 116; goes on to the city of Decan. 

Chapter concerning Decan, a very beautiful city of India, and its 
many and various riches and jewels, 117, 118. 

The city of Decan (Bijapur) and its Mohamedan King, 117; beautiful 
palace and houses ; splendour of the court, 118 ; mountain from which 
diamonds are dug ; veiled ladies. 

Chapter concerning the activity of the King in military affairs, 118. 

His wars with Narsinga ; his navy hostile to Christians ; Varthema 
goes to Bathacala, 118. 

Chapter concerning Bathacala, a city of India, and of its fertility in 
many things, and especially in rice and sugar, 119, 120. 
Bathacala (Bathcal, Beitkul, or Sedashevaghur), 119; its trade and 
fertility, 120 ; absence of horses, mules, and asses ; Varthema goes to 
Anzediva island. 

Chapter concerning Centacola, Onor, and Mangolor, excellent 
districts of India, 120-122. 

Arrives at Centacola (Uncola in North Canara), 120; at Onor (Honah- 
war), 121 ; its productions, fine air, and longevity of the people, 122; 


Chapter concerning Canonor, a very great city in India, 123-125. 
The King of Portugal's castle at Canonor, 123 ; importation of horses, 
124 ; spices (properly so called) begin ; the King's Naeri (Nairs) and 
their costume; the travellers take their way to the kingdom of 
Narsinga, and reach the city of Bisinegar, 125. 

Chapter showing Bisinegar, a very fertile city of Narsinga in 
India, 125-128. 

Great size and defences of Bisinegar (Bijayanagar), 125; a paradise 
of a place, 126 ; the power of the Pagan King ; his horsemen and 
elephants; equip inent of the war elephant; his docility, 127; his 
dread of fireworks ; how elephants were employed in Varthema's 
presence at Canonor to beach a ship ; the absence of joints a fable ; 
description of the animal, and power of his trunk, 128 ; height of the 
elephant ; pace, and how they are mounted. 

Chapter showing how elephants generate, 129-131. 

They generate in secret marshes, 129 ; parts of an elephant eaten in 
some countries ; various values of elephants ; their great discretion ; 
riches of the King of Narsinga ; dress of the people and the king ; his 
coinage, 130 ; lions ; the Portuguese honoured in Narsinga, 131 ; 
return to Canonor, and go to Tormapatani. 

Chapter concerning Tormapatani, a city of India ; and concerning 
Pandarani, a place one day distant; and concerning Capo- 
gatto, a similar district, 131-134. 

Torinapatani (Dorinapatain), 131; misery of the people, 132; timber 
for ships ; houses worth half a ducat ; Pandarani ; Capogatto, 133 ; 
go to Calicut ; has reserved till now the description of the manners 
of the preceding places (because similar to those of Calicut), but he 
will now describe that kingdom, for the King of Calicut, called 
Samory, is the most important, 134. 


Chapter concerning Calicut, a very large city of India, 135, 136. 
Description of the city and poverty of the houses. 

Chapter concerning the King of Calicut, and the religion of the 
people, 136-139. 

The king worships the devil, 136; why, 137; description of the devil's 
chapel and images of Deumo and Sathanas ; rites and ceremonies of 
the Brahmins in worshipping, 138. 

Chapter concerning the manner of eating of the King of Calicut, 

The King's food first offered to Deumo, 139 ; and how the Brahmins 
wait on the King when eating, 140 ; and carry their relics away and 
give them to the black crows, 140. 

Chapter concerning the Brahmins, that is the priests of Calicut, 141. 

The Brahmins are the chief persons of the faith; royal marriage 


Chapter concerning the Pagans of Calicut and of what classes they 
are, 141, 142. 

Classes of the Pagans, 141 ; Brahmins ; Naeri (Nairs) ; Tiva, or arti- 
sans, 142 ; Mechua, or fishermen ; Poliar, who collect pepper, wine, 
and nuts ; Ilirava, who plant lice; degradation of the two last before 
Brahmins and Naeri. 

Chapter concerning the dress of the King and Queen, and others 
of Calicut, and of their food, 143. 

Chapter concerning the ceremonies which they perform after the 
death of the King, 143, 144. 

Succession goes to sister's son, 143 ; reasons for this, 144 ; customs 
on the King's death; betel eating. 

Chapter showing how the Pagans sometimes exchange their 
wives, 145-147. 

Yarthema shows his Malayahm, 145; dialogue between two mer- 
chants exchanging wives; poiyandria of the other classes of 
pagans, 146. 

Chapter concerning the manner of living, and of the administration 
of justice among the Pagans, 147, 148. 

How they eat, 147; punishments; impaling; fines; curious mode of 
enforcing payment of debts. 

Chapter concerning the mode of worship of the Pagans, 149. 
Their matutinal washing ; prayers ; and customs of cooking, &c. 

Chapter concerning the fighting of these people of Calicut, 149-151. 

Army of the King, 149; dress, 150; customs of battle; the Naeri 
(Nairs), 151; customs as to burning and burial; money of Calicut; 
great variety of nations found trading there ; great numbers of Moors 
(Mohamedans) . 

Chapter concerning the manner of navigating in Calicut, 152-154, 

Mode of ship-building, 152; timber, 153; sails; anchors of niarble; 
seasons of navigation ; names of the different classes of vessels, 154. 

Chapter concerning the palace of the King of Calicut, 155, 156. 

The palace and its small value, 155 ; why they cannot dig founda- 
tions, 156; the King's jewels, and his bad humour, with the reasons 
thereof; his treasures. 

Chapter concerning the spices which grow in that country of 
Calicut, 157, 158. 
Pepper described, 157; ginger, 158; myrobalans. 

Chapter concerning some fruits of Calicut, 159-163. 

Fruit called ciccara (jack), 159 ; amba (mango) ; corcopal (?), 161 ; 
fruit like a medlar ; comolanga (?) ; malapolanda (plantain), 162. 

Chapter concerning the most fruitful tree in the world, 163-166. 
The tenga (cocoa-nut tree), 163 ; its many uses, 164 ; the nuts ; sub- 


stance like flax which is woven, 165 ; another made into cords ; char- 
coal ; excellent water contained in the nnt ; oil ; sap drawn and used 
for wine ; the cutting down of these trees not forgiven, 166 ; mode of 
cultivation; the oil of zerzalino (sesamum). 

Chapter concerning the practice they follow in sowing rice, 166, 167. 
Ploughing, sowing, and devil-dancing, 167. 

Chapter concerning the physicians who visit the sick in Calicut, 
Devil-dancers employed to visit the sick, 167 ; potion of ginger. 

Chapter concerning the bankers and money-changers, 168-170. 

Their balances and touchstones, 168 ; the brokers, and their curious 
mode of bargaining with the fingers ; weights used in trade, 170. 

Chapter showing how the Poliari and Hirava feed their chil- 
dren, 171-173. 

Singular treatment of the children, 1 71 ; then' agility ; the many 
animals and birds of Calicut, 172 ; parrots ; starlings (or mainas) ; 
apes and then- tricks. 

Chapter concerning the serpents which are found in Calicut, 173. 
Great marsh serpents (crocodiles), 173; venomous serpents; protec- 
tion of them ; protection of cows, 174 ; superstitions. 

Chapter concerning the lights of the King of Calicut, 174, 175. 

Vases used in the king's house for lamps described, 174; feasting 
customs on expiry of mourning, 175. 

Chapter showing how a great number of people came to Calicut on 
the 25th of December to receive their pardon, 175-177. 
Temple in a tank, 175; manner of the sacrifice; the great Sathanas; 
the vast number assembled, 177. 


His companion cannot sell his goods, because of the war with the 
King of Portugal, 178 ; they go by a beautiful river (backwater) to 
Caicolon, 179; Christians of St. Thomas, 180; go to Colon (Quilon), 
182; and thence to Chayl, 184; pearl-fishery. 

Chapter concerning Cioromandel, a city of India, 186-188. 

City of Cioromandel, 186; body of St. Thomas, 187; miracle at his 
tomb; war with the King of Tarnassari, 188; Varthenia and his 
companion go to Zailon (Ceylon). 

Chapter concerning Zailani, where jewels are produced, 188-190. 

Four kings in the island, 188 ; then' wars, 189 ; elephants ; rubies, 
190 ; mining customs ; excellent fruits. 

Chapter concerning the tree of the canella [cinnamon], 191-194. 

Cinnamon-tree described, 191 ; Adam's Peak; no rice in Ceylon, 192; 
dress and character of the people, 193: no artillery; flowers; sum- 
moned to show their goods to the King, 194. 


Chapter concerning Paleachct, a country of India, 194, 195. 

Palcachet (Pulicat), 194; its trade, 195; war with Tarnassari; they 
set out for that place. 

Chapter concerning Tarnassari, a city of India, 196-199. 

Description of Tarnassari (Tenasserim), 196 ; the King's wars with 
Narsinga and Banghella (Bengal) 198; his army; products of the 

Chapter concerning the domestic and wild animals of Tarnassari, 

Animals detailed, 199; bird with great beak (hornbill), 200; great 
cocks and hens ; cock-fighting ; goats, reniai-kable sheep, &c. ; buffa- 
loes, 201 ; great bone of a fish ; dress of the people. 

Chapter showing how the King causes his wife to be deflowered, 
and so also the other pagans of the city, 202-204. 

White men employed, 202; dialogue between merohants and the 
author's companion recited. 

Chapter showing how the dead bodies are preserved in this city, 204. 
Burning of the dead and preservation of the ashes, 204 ; odoriferous 
woods, &c, used in burning, 205. 

Chapter showing how the wife is burnt alive after the death of her 
husband, 206-208. 

Description of the ceremonies of widow -burning, 206, 207; another 
custom of proving affection, 208. 

Chapter concerning the administration of justice which is observed 
in Tarnassari, 209. 

Punishment of murder, 209; conveying, &c.; the King heir to foreign 
merchants ; funeral customs of Moorish merchants. 

Chapter concerning the ships which are used in Tarnassari, 210. 

Chapter concerning the city of Banghella, and of its distance from 
Tarnassari, 210-212. 

They go to Banghella (some city of Bengal), 210 ; the Moorish Sultan 
and his great army, 211; great plenty in the country, 212; wealthy 
merchants ; names of the stuffs exported. 

Chapter concerning some Christian merchants in Banghella, 212- 

Christian merchants from a city called Sarnau, 212 ; their dress, 213; 
their bebef, mode of writing, observances ; they offer to take Var- 
thema and his companion to a good market, 214 ; these go with the 
Christians to Pego (Pegu). 

Chapter concerning Pego, a city of India, 215. 

The city of Pego, 215; Christians employed by the King, 217; animals, 
2JS; parrots; timber (teak); great canes; rubies from Capelhm; the 
King's wars with Ava; they go in search of the King, 219; but 
roi urn to Pego, and are admitted to an interview when he comes back 


Chapter concerning the dress of the King of Pego above-men- 
tioned, 219-222. 

The King described, and his jewels, 219 ; Yarthenia's companion 
shows his corals, 220 ; and presents them to the King, 221 ; the King 
gives rubies in return ; his wealth and liberality, 222 ; products of his 
country ; approach of the King of Ava ; women burning themselves. 

Chapter concerning the city Malacha and the river Gaza, otherwise 
Gange, as I think, and of the inhumanity of the men, 223-228. 

Go to Melacha (Malacca), 223 ; great river more than twenty-five 
miles wide, called Gaza (the Straits of Malacca) ; Sumatra ; Sultan 
of Melacha ; tributary to the King of Cini (Siam), 224 ; great amount 
of shipping ; trade and produces, 225 ; the people described, 22f> ; 
their violence and insubordination, 227 ; the travellers go to Pider 
(Pedir) in Sumatra, 22S. 

Chapter concerning the island of Sumatra, and concerning Pider, 
a city of Sumatra, 228-232. 

Circumference of Sumatra, 229 ; he identifies it with Taprobane ; 
the inhabitants and their customs, 230 ; the\r money, 231 ; great 
elephants, 232. 

Chapter concerning another sort of pepper, and concerning silk 
and benzoin, which are produced in the said city of Pider, 
233, 234. 
Pepper and long pepper, 233 ; silk, 234 ; benzoin. 

Chapter concerning three sorts of aloes-wood, 234-237. 

Three kinds of aloes-wood, viz., calampat, loban, and bochoY, 235 ; 
the first and best chiefly purchased in Gran Cathai, in Cini, Macini, 
Sarnau, and Giava, 236. 

Chapter concerning the experiment with the said aloes-wood and 
benzoin, 238. 

The Christians show by experiment the excellence of kalanrpat and 
of benzoin ; lacca-wood used for dying red. 

Chapter concerning the variety of dealers in the said island of 
Sumatra, 238. 

Beautiful work in gold, 238 ; numerous money-changers, 239 ; timber ; 
great junks, with prows each way; swimmers, and fireworkers. 

Chapter concerning the houses, and how they are covered in the 
said island of Sumatra, 240-243. 

Houses covered with turtle shells, 240 ; great elephants' teeth, 241 ; 
very great serpents ; they wish to see spices growing, but are informed 
that the nutmegs and cloves grow much farther off ; their Christian 
companions teach them what they must do to go there, 242 ; they buy 
two small vessels, and persuade the Christians to accompany 
them, 243. 

Chapter concerning the island of Bandan, where nutmegs and mace 
grow, 243, 244. 
Pass many islands, 243 ; arrive at Bandan, 244 j description of the 


people, and of the nutmeg-tree ; stupidity of the people ; determine 
to go to the clove island. 

Chapter concerning the island of Monoch, where the cloves grow, 

Reach the island of Monoch (Moluccas), 245; the clove-tree de- 
scribed, 246. 

Chapter concerning the island of Bornei, 246-248. 

The Christians propose to show them the largest and richest island in 
the world (apjiarently Java), 247; but they niust first go to another 
island called Bornei (Borneo) ; which they reach accordingly, 248 ; 
the Christians are charmed with Vartheina's conversation about the 
saints, and wish him to go home with them ; notices of Bornei ; they 
charter a vessel for Giava. 

Chapter showing how the mariners manage the navigation towards 
the island of Giava, 248-251. 

The captain carries compass and chart with lines, 249 ; how he navi- 
gated thereby, but tells them how beyond Giava there are some races 
who sail by certain stars opposite to the north (antarctic) ; and that 
there the day is only four hours long, and 'tis colder than in any 
part of the world, 251. 

Chapter concerning the island of Giava, of its faith, manner of 
living and customs, and of the things which grow in the said 
Island, 251-255. 

Arrive at Giava, 251 ; religion of the island ; its products, 252 ; cha- 
racter and features of the people, 253 ; birds ; dress of the people ; 
arms, 254 ; blowpipes ; food. 

Chapter showing how in this island the old people are sold by their 
children or their relations and afterwards are eaten, 255-257. 
Fathers when aged sold in the market for food, 255 ; sick persons 
killed and sold, 256 ; Vartheina's comrade takes alann. 

Chapter where, at midday, the sun casts a shadow in the island of 
Giava, 257, 258. 

The sun casts a shadow to the south in June, 257 ; their fear of being 
eaten ; purchase of emeralds and mutilated children, 258. 

Chapter concerning our return, 258-263. 

Charter a junk and return to Malacha, 258 ; part with the Christians 
of Sarnau, to the great grief of these, 259 ; sail to Cioromandel, and 
take another ship to Colon (Quilon) ; they proceed to Calicut, where 
Varthema finds two Milanese Christians who made ordnance for the 
king ; Varthema plays the hypocrite, pretending to be a Mussulman 
saint, and is much venerated, 262. 

Chapter showing how I made myself a physician in Calicut, 

Varthema called to visit a silk merchant, 263 ; his medical practice, 
264 ; and its success ; his fame as a saint spreads, but he keeps up 
secret communication with the Christians, 265. 


Chapter concerning the news of the ships of the Portuguese which 
came into Calicut, 266. 

Two Persian merchants of Cannanore report the arrival of the Portu- 
guese fleet there, and the comrnencement of a fort ; Varthenia pre- 
tends to denounce them, 266. 

Chapter showing how the Moors summon to the church those who 
are of their sect and faith, 267, 268. 

Takes occasion to describe the call to prayer (adh'm), 267 ; Varthema 
sets forth (as Imam) to lead the prayers of the congregation in the 
mosque ; gives his version of the prayer (Fdtihah) ; pretends illness, 
and his comrade proposes his going to Cannanore for change, 268. 

Chapter concerning the flight from Calicut, 268-270. 

Varthema after doubts and fears sets out by sea with the two mer- 
chants of Cannanore, 268 ; they are stopped by the Nairs ; they start 
by land till they find a boat which takes them to Cannanore, 270 ; 
where a friend of his (Mussulman) comrade receives him hospitably. 

Chapter showing how I escaped from Cananor to the Portuguese, 

He makes his way to the Portuguese factory, and takes refuge with 
Don Lorenzo de Almeyda, 271 ; to whom he relates all the prepara- 
tions at Calicut ; and is then sent to the Viceroy at Cochin, 272 ; the 
Viceroy receives him well and gives him a safe conduct for the two 
Milanese ; he makes many attempts to induce them to escape alone 
with their jewels and money ; but their avarice causes delays and they 
are betrayed, 273 ; the Moorish merchants combine to bribe the King 
of the Gioghi, who was then at Calicut, to have them murdered, 274 ; 
Varthema protects the son of one of them, who dies a year later. 

Chapter concerning the fleet of Calicut, 274-280. 

Description of the great fleet which issued from the ports of Calicut, 
274 ; the Viceroy's son having but eleven ships to meet them, 275 ; he 
exhorts his officers and men ; the chaplain follows with a discourse 
and absolution ; but the main fight takes place next day near Can- 
nanore, 277 ; gallantry of Captain Joan Sarrano and of Captain Simon 
Martin, 278 ; rout and pursuit of the Calicut fleet, 279 ; great slaughter 
of the enemy ; bravery of the Portuguese ; and joy of the Viceroy, 280. 

Chapter showing how I was sent back to Canonor by the Viceroy, 

Varthema made factor by the Viceroy and sent to Cannanore, 280 ; 
King of Cannanore dying, the new king is hostile, 281 ; war breaks 
out and the fort is beleaguered from April to August, 282 ; when they 
are relieved by the fleet from Portugal ; miraculous aid hinted at, 284 ; 
superstition of the Moors, 285 ; enchanters among them, 286. 

Chapter concerning the assault of the Portuguese upon Pannani, 
Varthema obtains leave to go to Europe, 286 ; but first takes part in 
the assault on Pannani, 287 ; desperate fighting; Varthema is knighted 
by the Viceroy, 288 ; return to Cannanore. 



Chapter concerning the various islands in Ethiopia, 289, 290. 

They sail from India, and arrive at Mozarubich, 289 ; notices of Me- 
lindi, Mombaza, Chiloa (Kilwah or Quiloa), Zaphala (Sofala), Gogia 
(Angoxa), Pati (Pate), Brava, the islands of Socotra, of Cumere (Co- 
moro), and Penda (Peniba), 290. 

Chapter concerning the island of Mozambich and its inhabitants, 

Products of Mozambich are gold and oil, 291 ; natives, their low state, 
292 ; wild elephants, 293 ; extraordinary speech of the negroes ; barter 
with them, 294 ; proceed on then- voyage, passing the island of San 
Lorenzo (Madagascar) ; the Portuguese conversions in India merit 
success for the king's arms. 

Chapter concerning the Cape of Good Hope, 296-298. 

Pass the Cape of Good Hope at a distance of 200 miles, 296 ; pass near 
St. Helena, where they see two great and extraordinary fishes, 291 ; find 
the island of Ascension, and certain stupid bh - ds thereon ; begin to 
see the north star; reach the islands of Astori (Azores) ; and Lisbon; 
Varthema has an interview with the King of Portugal, 298, who con- 
firms his patent of knighthood; Varthema proceeds to Rome. 



The following translation has been made from the 
first edition of Varthema's work printed at Rome in 
the year 1510, or, as stated in the colophon : " Nel 
Anno M.D.X. a di • vi de Decembrio." It is impos- 
sible to peruse Varthema's narrative and not feel a 
conviction that the writer is telling the truth, that he 
is recording events which actually took place, and 
describing men, countries and scenes which he had 
examined with his own eyes. There is a manifest 
absence of all attempt at composition. The tale is 
told with a charming simplicity and all the concise 
freshness of a note-book, and the author has evi- 
dently not stopt to consider whether the word he 
used was Bolognese, Venetian, or "Lingua Toscana." 
Neither has he felt any qualms of conscience as to 
his grammar. This latter circumstance has occa- 
sionally rendered the meaning of a passage somewhat 
doubtful. The printers also have added their mite 
to the obscurity by sometimes uniting two words 
or sentences together, or separating one word or 
sentence into two, or by leaving out a word alto- 



gether. This edition, however, is the only one which 
gives Varthcma's text truly. Even the Latin trans- 
lation by Archangelus Madrignanus (a monk of 
the abbey of Clairvaux), which was finished on the 
25th day of May 1511, or within six months after 
the publication of the first Italian edition, is not 
always an exact exponent of Varthema's text. Later 
editions vary still more, and the English translation, 
which is given in Eden's Collection of Voyages and 
Travels, printed at London in 1577, is extremely im- 
perfect : many passages are totally at variance with the 
original, and many others are omitted. It has, there- 
fore, been thought advisable by the Council of the 
Hakluyt Society that a new version should be exe- 
cuted, which should as far as possible be a faithful 
representative of the original work. With this 
object in view, the translator has endeavoured to 
preserve the quaint dry style of the author. This 
must be his excuse for retaining some expressions 
which are hardly suited to the refinement of the 
present day, and for not omitting some anecdotes 
which a writer in modern times would hardly ven- 
ture to record. They, however, afford an additional 
voucher for the truth of the narrator : it is impos- 
sible to imagine them to be inventions, and they only 
make us feel the more assured that we are really 
travelling with Varthema, and sharing with him in 
all his adventures. His work at once attracted 
attention. It was, as stated above, immediately 
translated into Latin, shortly afterwards into Ger- 
man, then into Spanish and French, again into 


German, then into Dutch and English, a third time 
into German, and again into Dutch in the middle 
of the 1 7th century. 

All the early editions, as well of the original Ita- 
lian as of the translations of this work, are extremely 
rare and costly. The consequence is, that there is, 
perhaps, no work which has been so frequently re- 
produced, of which the lists given by bibliographers 
are so inaccurate and imperfect. They have been 
obliged to copy one from another without the means 
of testing the accuracy of their statements. The 
translator has had the advantage of seeing most of 
the editions of which he gives the titles, and has 
described them somewhat fully for the benefit of 
those to whom the originals may not be conveniently 

The following is a list of the most important 
editions of this work : — 


1. Itineraries de Ludouico de Varthema Bolognesc nello 
Egypto, nella Surria, nella Arabia deserta & felice ; nella 
Persia, nella India & nella Ethiopa. La fede, el uiuere, 
& costumi de tutte le prefate Prouincie con Gratia & Pri- 
vilegio infra notato. 

Colophon. — Stampato in Roma per maestro Stephano guil- 
lireti de Loreno & maestro Hercule de Nani Bolognese, 
ad instatia de maestro Lodouico de Henricis da Corneto 
Vicetino. Nel Anno m.d.x. a di • vi. de Decembrio. 4°. 

This edition contains 102 leaves, besides the title, 
100 of which are numbered, and the two leaves con- 
taining the last page of the privilege, and the first 

b 2 


three pages of the table being unnumbered. This is 
the first Italian edition, and is of excessive rarity. 
Until recently, very few bibliographers were aware 
of its existence. A copy is in the Grenville Library 
in the British Museum. 

S. Itinerario de Ludouico de Varthema Bolognese nello 
egypto nella Suria ; nella Arabia deserta et felice nella 
Persia nella India et nella Ethiopia Le fede, el viuere et 
costumi de tutte le pfate prouincie. Cu Priuilegio. 

Colophon. — Impresso in Rome per Mastro Stephano Guil- 
lireti De Loreno Nel anno m.d.xvij adi . xvi de Junio 
Cum gratia et Privilegio del S. Signore N. S. Leone, 
p. p. X. in suo anno quinto. 8°. 

This edition contains title, seven leaves of prelimi- 
nary matter (viz. the privilege and table of contents), 
and 123 leaves of text not numbered. Signatures 
A ij to Q vj. 

The Privilege is dated 10th of June 1517. In this 
Privilege it is stated that licence is given to Stephanus 
Guillereti de Lothoringia to print the book, " Ludo- 
vico defuncto, neminem ex heredibus superesse qui 
ex nova impressione vel jactura vel injuria afficiatur." 
It is also stated that all the copies of the former im- 
pression were sold. 

The only known copy of this edition is in the 
Grenville Library. 

Mr. Grenville, in a note upon this copy, speaking 
of some of the editions of the book, says : — 

" It was a third time printed in Italian, at Venice in 1518, 
and this third Italian edition is by Haym, and most of the 
books of bibliography, described as the first. In truth, the 


two first Italian editions of 1510 and 1517 are so rare, that 
I find no notice whatever of either of them, except in Croft's 
Catalogue, No. 8045—8046, and quoted by Brunet from 
Croft's. This copy [of the edition of 1517] comes from the 
Blandford sale ; it had been bought at Croft's sale. I have 
seen no copy but this of this edition. It is unknown to 
Panzer, Maittaire, Haym, &c." 

3. Itinerario De Ludouico De Varthema Bolognese ne lo 
Egypto, ne la Suria, ne la Arabia Deserta & Felice ne la 
Persia ne la India ne la Ethiopia. La fede el viuere & 
costumi de tutte le pfate pulcie, Nouamete impsso. 

Colophon. — Stampata in Venetia per Zorzi di Rusconi 
Milanese : Regnando linclito Principe Miser Leonardo 
Loredano : Nella incarnatioe del nro signore Jesu xpo 
m.d.xvii. adi vi del Mese de Marzo. 8°. 

This edition is printed in double columns, and con- 
tains ninety-two unnumbered leaves. Signatures A ii 
to M. The table of contents occupies four pages, and 
commences on the verso of sig. M. 

This edition was printed in 1518, new style, the 
year then commencing on the 25th of March. A 
copy is in the Banksian Library in the British 

4. Itinerario De Ludouico De Verthema Bolognese ne lo 
Egypto ne la Suria ne la Arabia Deserta e Felice ne la 
Persia ne la India : e ne la Ethiopia. La fede el uiuere e 
costumi de tutte le p'refate prouincie. Nouamente impresso. 

Colophon. — Stampata in Milano per Ioanne Angelo Scin- 
zenzeler Nel Anno del signor m.cccccxix. Adi vltimo de 
Mazo. 4°. 

This copy contains fifty-eight unnumbered leaves. 
Signatures a ii. to g iii. The colophon is printed on 


a separate leaf, and is followed by two leaves of the 
table of contents. 

A copy of this edition is in the Royal library in 
the British Museum. 

5. Itinerario De Ludouico De Verthema Bolognese ne 
lo Egypto ne la Suria ne la Arabia Deserta & Felice ne 
la Persia ne la India : & ne la Ethiopia La fede el uiuere 
& costumi de tutte le prefate prouincie. Nouamente irn- 

The type in the colophon has got shifted. It 
reads : — 


M.ccc mpata in Milano per Johanne Angelo 
Scinzenzeler nel Anno del Signor 
ccxxiii. a di_ xxx <j e Aprile. 4°. 

This edition contains title, forty-one leaves num- 
bered ii to xlii, and two leaves of table of contents 
not numbered. Signatures A ii to F ii. 

A copy of this edition of 1523 is in the Grenville 

6. Itinerario de Ludouico De Varthema Bolognese nello 
Egitto, nella Soria nella Arabia deserta, & felice, nclla 
Persia, nella India, & nela Ethyopia. Le fede el viuere, 
& costumi delle prefate Prouincie. Et al psente agiontoui 
alcune Isole nouamete ritrouate. 

Colophon. — Stampato in Vinegia per Francesco di Ales- 
sandro Bindone, & Mapheo Pasini compani, a santo Moyse 
al segno de Langelo Raphael, nel m.d.xxxv. del mese 
d'Aprile. 8°. 

The Itinerary of Varthema terminates on the recto 
of page 89, with the following words : — 


" Qui Finisse lo Itinerario de Ludovico de Varthema 
Bolognese, de li paesi et Isole la Fede el vivere et costumi 
loro. Nuovamente per lui visto in piu parte." 

Followed by — 

" Qui comencia lo Itinerario de Lisola de Iuchatan noua- 
mente retrouata per il Signor Joan de Grisalue Capitan 
Generale de Larmata del Re de Spagna e p il suo Capellano 

This edition consists of 103 leaves, of which 99 are 
numbered ; the title-page, and table of contents, and 
device at the end, are not numbered. The colophon 
is printed at the end of the table ; the device occupies 
a separate leaf, and represents the " Archangelus 
Raphael" leading with his right hand " Tobiodo," 
(who is represented as a little child with a large fish 
in his hand), and having on his left Tobit's dog. 

The Itinerary of the Island of Yucatan is printed 
in this edition of Varthema for the first time. 

A copy of this edition is in the Grenville Library. 

7. Itinerario de Ludovico De Varthema Bolognese nello 
Egitto, nella Soria, nella Arabia deserta, & felice, & 
nella Persia, nella India, & nella Ethyopia. Le fede, el 
viuere, & costumi delle prefate Prouincie. Et al Presente 
Agiontovi alcune Isole nuouamente trouate. 

Colophon. — In Venetia per Matthio Pagan, in Frezzaria, 
al segno della Fede. 8°. 

The type in the colophon has got shifted. This 
edition reads page for page with that of 1535. One 
has evidently been closely reprinted from the other. 

Mr. Grenville was of opinion that this edition was 
printed in 1518. This, however, must be a mistake. 


as Matthio Pagan or Pagano printed at Venice be- 
tween the years 1554 and 1569 (see also " Saggio di 
Bibliografia Veneziana, composto da E. A. Cicogna." 
Venezia 1847), and his name is not found in any list 
of printers prior to that date. The circumstance 
which renders it important to fix the date of this edi- 
tion is that of the " Itinerario de l'lsola de Juchatan," 
being printed for the first time with the work of 
Varthema. If Mr. Grenville be correct, then the 
Itinerary was printed in 1518 ; if not, it was not 
printed until 1535. It is not included in any edi- 
tion bearing a date prior to that of 1535. 

A copy is in the Grenville Library. 

Varthema is also inserted by Ramusio in his 
" Prime volume delle navigationi et viaggi nel qual si 
contiene la descrizione dell' Africa, et del paese del 
prete Janni con varii viaggi dal Mar Rosso a Calicut et 
infin all' isole Molucche dove nascono de spetierie," 
&c. Venetia, 1550. Fol. Ramusio had evidently 
never seen the first or second editions, as he tells us 
that he had made use of the Spanish translation from 
the Latin, in order to correct the corrupted text then 
in use. It may naturally, therefore, be supposed that 
such a process cannot have restored the language of 
the original. 

Boucher de la Richarderie (" Bibliotheque Univer- 
selle des Voyages ") mentions an edition in Italian 
printed by Rusconi at Venice in 1520, and another 
printed at the same place in 1589 ; and Ternaux 
Compans inserts in his " Bibliotheque Asiatique et 
Africa ine" the title of an edition printed by Scin- 


zenzeler at Milan in 1525 in 4°. Beckmann ( Vorrath) 
mentions an edition printed at Venice in fol. in 1563. 


We have already said that the travels of Varthema 
were translated into Latin within a few months after 
the appearance of the Italian edition, the dedicatory 
epistle of the translator bearing the date " Mediolani 
octavo calen. Junias mdxi." [25 May, 1511.] Al- 
though there is no date to this edition, it was most 
probably printed in the year the dedication bears 
date, or very shortly afterwards. The title is as 
follows : — 

Ludovici Fatritii Romani novum Itinerarium iEthiopise : 
JEgypti : vtriosque Arabise : Persidis : Siriae : ac India; : 
intra et extra Gangem. 4°. 

The dedicatory epistle bears the following inscrip- 
tion : — 

Reverendissimo in Christo Patri Domino Domino Bernar- 
dino Carvaial episcopo Sabino : Sancte crucis in Hierusalem 
Cardinali amplissimo : Patriarchs Hyerosolimeo : ac utri- 
usque philosophise monarchal eminentissimo, Archangelus 

In this epistle the translator gives a rapid geogra- 
phical sketch of the various parts of the world, show- 
ing the interest and importance of Varthema's work, 
which, he says, " tuis auspiciis effectus est romanus 
et, quasi serpens, exuto senio elegantioreque sumpto 
amictu juvenescit." 

Colophon. — " Operi suprema manus imposita est auspitiis 
cultissimi celebratissimiq : Bernardini Carauaial hispani. 
Epi sabinen. S.R.E. Cardialis cognometo sancte crucis 


amplissimi. quo tpe quibus nunq : antca bcllis : Italia 
crudele Imodu uexabat." 

This edition consists of sixty-two numbered leaves, 
besides eight preliminary leaves. Sigs. AA. A. to I v. 

Ternaux Com pans (Bibliotlwque Asiatique et Afri- 
caine) gives the title of an edition of Madrignanus's 
translation of 1508 ; but this is clearly a mistake, the 
Italian not having been printed until 1510, and the 
epistle to the Latin translation bearing date 1511. 

A copy of the edition of 1511 is in the Grenville 

Another Latin edition was printed at Nuremburg 
in 1610, and again at Francfort in 1611. It was 
also inserted in the " Novus Orbis" of Grynceus. 

Four years after the Latin translation a German 
version was published with the following title :— 

1 . Die Ritterlich vn lobwirdig rayss des gestrengen vn 
uber all ander weyt erfarnen ritters vnd Lantfarers herren 
Ludowico vartomans vo Bolonia Sagent vo den landen, 
Egypto, Syria, vo bayden Arabia, Persia, India, vn Ethiopia 
vo den gestalte, syte vn dero menschen leben vnd gelauben. 
Auch von manigerlay thyeren voglen vnd vil andern in den 
selben landen seltzamen wiiderparlichen sachens. Das alles 
er selbs erfaren vn in aygner person gesehen hat. 

Colophon. — Auss welscher zungen in teytsch transferyert 
und seligklichen volend worden in der Kayserlichen stat 
Augspurg in Kostung und verlegung des Ersamen Hansen 
Millers der jar zal Christi 1515. An dem. sechzechen den 
Tag des Monatz Junij. 4°. 

This edition consists of 76 leaves not numbered. 


Signatures a ii to t. iii. The printer's device occupies 
the last leaf. 

A copy is in the Grenville Library. 

2. Die Ritterlich und lobwurdig reiss des gestrengen \h 
uber all ander weyt-erfarne Hitters vii landtfarers herre 
Ludowico Vartomans vo Bolonia Sagend von den landen, 
Egypto, Syria, von beiden Arabia, Persia, India, vnd 
Ethiopia, von den gestalten, sitten vnd dero menschen 
leben vnd glauben. Auch von manigerley thieren, voglen 
vnd vil andern in den selben landen seltzamen wunderbar- 
liclien sachen. Das alles er selbs erfaren vnd in eygner 
person gesehe hat. 

Colophon. — Auss Welscher zungen in Teutsch transffe- 
riert. Unnd selighlichen volendet unnd getruckt in des 
Keyserliche Freystat Strassburg. Durch den Ersame Jo- 
hannem Knobloch, Als man zalt vo der geburt Christi 
unsers herre mcccccxvj. Jar. 4°. 

This edition contains 113 unnumbered leaves. 
Signatures A ij to X. v. 

A copy is in the British Museum. 

Both these editions are copiously illustrated with 
engravings on wood. 

Panzer (Annalen der cilteren Deutschen Literatur, 
p. 421,) gives the following: — 

" 3. Die Rittertich vnd lobwirdig raiss des gestregen vnd 
iiber all ander weyt erfarnen ritters \n landfarers, herren 
Ludowico Vartomans von Bolonia. Sagent vo den landen 
Egipto. Syria, vo bayden Arabia. Persia. India, vfi Ethiopia. 
Das alles er selbs erfaren vnd gesehen hat." Colophon. — 
" Getrucht in der kaiserlichen stat Augspurg, in der jar zal 
Christi m.d.xvtii." 4°. 

Panzer is of opinion that this translation may have 


been made by Michael Herr. It will be shown, 
however, hereafter, that this cannot have been the 
case. It was reprinted at Augsburg in 1530. 

In 1532 Simon Gryna?us published at Basle, in 
folio, a collection of voyages and travels, under the 
title, " Novus orbis regionum ac insularum veteribus 
incognitarum una cum tabula eosmographica et 
aliquot aliis consimilis argumenti libellis," in which 
he included the Latin translation of Varthema. This 
collection was translated into German by Michael 
Herr, under the title, " Die New "Welt," and printed 
at Strasburg in 1534. In the introductory epistle to 
Regnart Count of Hanau, he says, that if he had 
met with the German translation of Varthema (whom 
he calls Varthoman) before he had made his own, he 
should have been glad to have been spared his trouble. 
It is clear, therefore, that Herr did not make the 
German translation published in 1515 and 1516. 
Herr's translation was executed from the Latin — 
that of 1515 from the Italian. 

Another translation by Hieronymus Megiserus, 
historiographer of the Elector of Saxony, was printed 
at Leipzig in 1610, with the following title : — 

" 4. Hodeporicon India? Orientalis ; das ist, Warhafftige 
Beschreibung der ansehlich Lobwiirdigen Reyss, Welche 
der Edel gestreng und weiterfahrne Bitter, H. Ludwig di 
Barthema von Bononien aus Italia biirtig, Inn die Orienta- 
lische und Morgenlander, Syrien, beide Arabien, Persicn, 
nnd Indien, auch in Egypten und Ethyopien, zu Land und 
Wasser personlich verrichtet : Neben eigentlicher Vermel- 
dung Vielerley Wenderbahren Sachen, so er darinnen 
gcsehcn und erfahren, Alss da seynd manigfaltigc sorten 


von Thieren unci Gewachsen,Dessgleichcn allerhand Volcker 
sitteu, Leben, Polycey, Glauben, Ceremoinen unci gebrauch, 
sampt anderer seltzamen denckwiirdigen dingen, daselbst zu 
sehen : Und endlich, Was er fiir angst, noht und gefahr in 
der Heidenschafft vieler ort aussgestanden : Alles von jhme 
H.Barthema selber inltalianischerSprach schrifFtlich verfasst 
und nu aus dem Original mit sonderm fleiss verdeutsclit : 
Mit Kupferstiicken artlich geziert, und aufFs new in Truck 
verfertiget : Durch Hieronymum Megiserum. Leipzig. 
1610. 8 ." 

This edition is copiously illustrated with maps and 
plans engraved on copper by H. Gross. A copy is 
in the British Museum. 

Ternaux Compans has inserted in his Bibliotheque 
the title of an edition of Megeserus's translation, 
printed at Augsburg in 4° in 1608. This date may 
be correct, as the preface to the edition of 1610 is 
dated 1 October 1607. He also mentions an edition 
printed at Francfort by H. Gulferichen in 1548. An 
edition was also printed at Leipzig in 1615. 


The first edition of the Spanish translation was 
printed in 1520, and the translator, Christoval de 
Arcos, informs us that he made it from the Latin 
version, because he could not procure the Italian. 
He recommends those who doubt the truth of Var- 
thema's relation to go and see for themselves ; and to 
those who may find fault with his translation, he ex- 
cuses himself on account of the obscurity of the Latin 
from which it was made. The title is : — 

Itinerario del venerable varon micer Luis patricio ro- 


mano : en el qual cueta mucha parte de la ethiopia Egipto : 
y entrabas Arabias : Siria y la India. Buelto de latin en 
romance por Christoual de arcos clerigo. Nuncia hasta 
aqui impresso en lengua castellana. 

Colophon. Fue impressa la presente obra enla muy 
noble y leal cuidad Scuillapor Jacobo croberger aleman. 
Enel aiio dcla encarnaciom del seiior de Mill y quincentos y 
veynte. Fol. 

This edition consists of fifty-four numbered leaves 
(from ii to lv), besides the title, and also the colo- 
phon, which is printed on a separate leaf. The book 
is printed in double columns. Signatures a iii to g v. 

A copy of this edition is in the Grenville Library. 
Brunet states that this translation was reprinted at 
Seville in 1523 and 1576 in folio, and Ternaux Com- 
pans mentions an edition printed at Seville in 1570. 


No separate translation into French has been pub- 
lished of this work, but a French translation is 
printed in the " Description de l'Afrique, tierce partie 
du monde contenant ses royaumes, regions, viles, cites, 
chateaux et forteresses : iles, fluves, animaux tant 
aquatiques que terrestres, &c. Escrite de notre terns 
par Jean Leon, Africain." Tome second: "Conte- 
nant les Navigations des capitaines Portugalois et 
autres faites audit pais, jusques aux Indes, tant 
orientales que Occidentals, parties de Perse, Arabie 
Heureuse, pierreuse et deserte. . . . L'assiette desdits 
pais, iles, royaumes et empires : Les figures, habits, 
religion et facon de faire des habitans et autres sin- 
gularites cy devant incogneues." Lyons, 1556. Fol. 



The Novns Orbis of Grynaeus was again translated, 
and this time into Dutch by Cornells Ablijn, and 
printed at Antwerp in 1563 in folio. The translator 
addresses his work to William Prince of Orange, and, 
speaking of the original, announces his own labours 
in the following words : — 

" Dwelek ich Cornells Ablijn openbaer notarius resi- 
derende inder vermaerder coopstadt van Antwcrpen. door 
bede van sommige vrienden wt dcr Hoochduytscher in deser 
Nederduytscher oft Brabantsche taelen getranslateert ende 
oveghesedt hebbe." 

This translation, therefore, is further removed from 
the original than any of the others. The privilege is 
dated 1561. 

De uytnemende en seer wonderlijcke zee-en-Landt-Reyse 
vande Heer Ludowyck di Barthema, van Bononien, Bidder, 
&c., gedaen Inde Morgenlanden, Syrien, Vrughtbaer en 
woest Arabien, Perssen, Indien, Egypten, Ethiopien, en 
andere. Uyt bet Italiens in Hoogh-duyts vertaelt door 
Hieronymum Megiserium, Cheur-Saxsens History schrijver. 
En vyt den selven nu eerstmael in't nederdcuyts gebracht 
door. F. S. Tot Utrecht, 1654. 4°. 

A copy of this edition is in the British Museum. 

Meusel, " Bibliotlieca Historica," vol. 2, pt. 1, 
p. 340, says that the German translation of Megiserus 
was translated into Dutch, and printed at Utrecht in 
1615 in 4°; and Ternaux Compans inserts in the 
" Bibliotheque" the title of another edition printed at 
Utrecht in 4° by W. Snellaert in 1655. 



In 1577 Richard Eden published, a collection of 
voyages and travels in 4°, which he entitled " The 
History of Travayle in the West and East Indies," 
&c, in which he included the Itinerary of Varthema 
with the following title : — 

" The navigation and vyages of Lewes Vertom annus, 
Gentleman, of the citie of Rome, to the regions of Arabia, 
Egypte, Persia, Syria, Ethiopia, and East India, both within 
and without the ryver of Ganges, etc. In the yeere of our 
Lorde 1503 : conteynyng many notable and straunge thinges, 
both hystoricall and naturall. Translated out of Latine 
into Englyshe by Richarde Eden. In the yeare of our Lord 

A short extract, greatly abridged, from Varthema's 
work, is also inserted in " Purchas his Pilgrimage." 
London, 1625-6. Fob 

J. Winter Jones. 
Dec. 10, 1863. 



Who was Ludovico di Varthema 1 Unfortunately, 
scarcely any record of him is forthcoming except 
what he tells us himself. I have searched every 
available repository of such information, to learn 
something of his antecedents, and have searched in 
vain. Zedler finds no place for him in his Universal 
Lexicon ; our own Biographical Collections pass him 
over ; and all that the French have to say is this : — 
" Varlomanas, gentilhomme Bolonais, et patrice Ro- 
main, fut un voyageur celebre clans le xvi e siecle. II 
est presque inconnu dans le notre, parce que l'abbe 
Prevost, et ceux qui ont ecrit l'histoire des voyages, 
ont neglige de parler du sien, quoiqu'il soit un des 
plus importants pour l'histoire de la geographie, et 
pour Thistoire en general." 1 I had hoped to glean 
some stray notices of him in the writings of his own 
countrymen ; but they are as barren of what we wish 
to know as the rest. Zurla 2 does not even mention 
him in his Dissertation on the most illustrious Italian 

1 Biographie Universelle, Ancienne et Moderne, Paris, 1827. 

2 Di Marco Polo e elegit altri Viaggiatori piu illustri, Disser- 
tazione da P. Ab. D. Placido Zurla, 2 vols. Venezia, 1818. 



travellers ; and Fantuzzi, the only Italian historian 
who devotes more than a few lines to him, begins his 
article on " Lodovico Bartema" with an admission 
which I have been obliged to imitate, and ends it by 
erroneously stating that our author's Itinerary was 
first published at Venice, and by hazarding a doubt 
respecting his return to Italy, — a fact which is plainly 
stated at the conclusion of his narrative. Fantuzzi's 
notice is as follows : — " Of this person, we know 
nothing beyond what the Co. Valerio Zani has written 
in the Preface to the Genio Vagante, torn. i. p. 32, 
viz., that Lodovico Bartema, a Bolognese by birth, 
flourished in the sixteenth century, — that he left 
Bologna for Venice, from whence he crossed over 
into Asia, and arrived first at Alexandria," etc. 
" This is all we learn from the Co. Valerio Zani in 
the abovenamed Preface, subsequent to which we 
possess no information about Lodovico Bartema ; 
hence, we do not know whether he returned to Italy, 
or where he died, except that, inasmuch as his Itine- 
rary was printed for the first time in Venice, we are 
led to believe" that he did return thither ; for it is 
not easy to suppose that he sent his manuscripts from 
Portugal to be printed in Italy, which they appear to 
have been during his lifetime." 1 

1 The following is appended to the foregoing extract in a foot- 
note : — " This writer's name is spelt in different ways. In his 
Itinerary comprised in the edition of Ramusio, by Ferdinando 
Leopoldo del Migliore in the Firenze Illustrata, p. 310, and in 
P. D. Abondio Collina's Dissertation De acus naufica inventore, 
contained in the Commentary delV Accadem. dell' Instituto, torn. ii. 


This is very unsatisfactory, and the deficiency is not 
supplied by any incidental allusions in the author's 
dedicatory epistle. Agnesina, the illustrious lady to 
whom he dedicates his Itinerary, was the fourth 
daughter of Federico di Montefeltro, Count and 
second Duke of Urbino, by his second wife Battista 
Sforza, and was married in 1474 to Fabrizio Colonna, 
Lord of Marino, Duke of Albi and Tagliacozza. Of 
the lady Agnesina, Dennistoun says: " She inherited 
the talents and literary tastes which had descended 
to her mother, and transmitted them to a still more 
gifted daughter, the illustrious Vittoria Colonna, 
Marchioness of Pescara." 1 Her brother, whose 

part iii. p. 382, he is called Lodovico Bartema ; but in the title- 
page of the edition of the said Itinerary, from the edition of 1535, 
of Bumaldi, in the Biblioth. Bonon., p. 158, of Orlandi's Notizia 
degli Scritt. Bologn., he is styled Lodovico Vartema. This is 
noticed by the Co. Mazzuchelli ; but it must be borne in mind, that 
the permutation of the letters B and V, in pronunciation, is very 
common with the Portuguese and Spaniards, as has been the case, 
moreover, among almost all nations in almost every age. So, like- 
wise, the ancient Florentines used to say Voce and Boce, Voto and 
Buto, and so forth. By Konig, in the Biblioth. Vctus et Nova, p. 
831, he is called Lodovicus Vartomannus, alias Varthema. Doni, 
in bis Libreria, p. 33, styles him merely Lodovico Bolognese; and 
Simlero, in his Epit. Biblioth. Gesneri, p. 121, has Lodovico da 
Bologna. Besides Mazzuchelli, who speaks of him in his Scrittori 
(V Italia, he is also mentioned by Sig. Ab. Tiraboschi, in his Storia 
delta Letter, d 'Italia, torn. vii. part i. p. 211." Fanttjzzi's Notizie 
degli Scrittori Bolognesi, Bologna, 1781. 

1 Memoirs of the Dukes of Urbino, vol i. p. 277. Writing of 
Battista, Agnesina's mother, the same author remarks: — "She 
was a remarkable instance of the transmission of talent by female 
descent. Her great grandmother, Battista di Montefeltro [daughter 



genius and acquirements are justly eulogized by 
Varthema, was Guidobaldo, who succeeded to the 
dukedom on the death of his father in 1482, and died 
on the 11th of April 1508. As he appears to have 
been living at the time the Dedication was written, 
it must have been prepared immediately after the 
author's return to Italy. 1 

of Count Antonio di Montefeltro,] was conspicuous among the 
ladies of high birth, whose acquirements gave illustration to her 
age. By cotemporary authors, her talents and endowments are 
spoken of in most flattering terms, whilst her character is cele- 
brated for piety and justice, benignity and tranquillity. Though 
married to a man of miserable character, she had a daughter, 
Elisabetta Malatesta, who inherited her misfortunes as well as her 
genius. Elisabetta's daughter was Costanza Varana, the associate 
of scholars and philosophers, whose gifts she is said to have 
rivalled, notwithstanding an early death that deprived her infant 
Battista of a mother's care." The latter, the mother of Agnesina, 
displayed remarkable talents while yet a child, and subsequently 
made rapid acquisition of solid knowledge. She was married to 
Count Federigo, Duke of Urbino, in 1459. (See Id., pp. 206-7.) 
According to Litta, the lady Agnesina died in 1522, while return- 
ing from a visit to the Sanctuary at Loreto. Her brother Guildo- 
baldo having been deprived of the dukedom by Leo X., her son 
Ascanio Colonna, Duke of Palliano, was subsequently invested 
with that dignity by Clement VII. ; but the bull of the former pope 
not having been carried into effect, he never succeeded to Urbino. 
See Litta, Famiglie Celebri Italiani, torn. ii. tavola vii. 

1 I am inclined to think, indeed, that the Dedication may have 
been intentionally antedated, otherwise Varthema must have had 
an extraordinary quick passage from India ; for as he left Can- 
nanore on the 6th December 1507, stayed fifteen days at Mozam- 
bique and two at the Azores, there only remain three months and 
eighteen days for the homeward voyage, and for the preliminaries 
connected with the preparation of his book, or at least of the 


One would have thought that Ramusio might have 
picked up some information respecting the early life 
and subsequent career of our author ; but his " Dis- 
corso Breve" to Varthema's book is briefer than 
many of the notices prefixed to other far less im- 
portant Voyages and Travels contained in his valu- 
able Collection. Moreover, it is clear that the first 
authorized edition of the Itinerary, printed at Rome 
in 1510, was either unknown to him or beyond his 
reach ; since he tells us that his revised exemplar 
was prepared from a Spanish version made from the 
Latin translation, — a third hand process, which ac- 
counts for the many variations existing between his 
copy and the original Italian edition. The following 
is all that he says : — 

" This Itinerary of Lodovico Barthema. a Bolognese, 
wherein the things concerning India and the Spice Islands 
are so full g and so correctly narrated as to transcend all that 
has been written either by ancient or modern authors, has 
hitherto been read replete with errors and inaccuracies, and 
might hare been so read in future, had not God caused to be 
put into our hands the book of Chrisfoforo di Arco, a clerk 
of Seville, who, being in possession of the Latin exemplar of 
that Voyage, made from the original itself, and dedicated to 
the Most Reverend Monsignor Bernardino, Cardinal Car- 
vaial of the Santa Croce, translated it with great care into 
the Spanish language, by the aid of which toe have been 
enabled to correct in many places the present book, which ivas 
originally loritten by the author himself in our own vulgar 
tongue, a?id dedicated to the 3Iost Illustrious Madonna 

dedicatory epistle, up to the death of Duke Guidobaldo, which, 
according to Dennistoun, occurred on the 11th of April 1508. 


Agnesina, one of the internment and excellent women of 
Italy at that period. She was the daughter of the Most Il- 
lustrious Si y nor Fcderico, Duke of TJrbino, and sister of the 
Most Excellent Guidobaldo, wife of the Most Illustrious 
Signor Fabricio Colonna, and mother of the Most Excellent 
Signor Ascanio Colonna and of the lady Vittoria, Marchio- 
ness Dal Guasto, the ornament and light of the present age. 
And the aforesaid Lodovico divided this volume into seven 
Books, in the First of tchich he narrates his journey to 
Egypt, Syria, and Arabia Deserla. In the Second, he treats 
of Arabia Felix. In the Third, of Persia. In the Fourth, 
Fifth, and Sixth, he comprises all India and the Molucca 
Islands, where the spices groiv. In the Seventh and last, he 
recounts his return to Portugal, passing along the coast of 
Ethiopia, the Cape of Good Hope, and several islands of the 
Western Ocean" 

In this dearth of all external aids, we are obliged 
to have recourse to the narrative itself; but even 
there, the materials for constructing a biographical 
sketch of its author are scanty in the extreme. He 
tells us on one occasion (p. 263), that his father was 
a physician ; but as he was acting a part when that 
statement was- made, little reliance can be placed 
upon it. On another, he claimed a knowledge of 
casting artillery (p. 50) ; and although the circum- 
stances under which the pretension was advanced are 
calculated to throw a doubt on its truth, it is not im- 
probable that Varthema had been brought up to the 
profession of arms, or had at some antecedent period 
served as a soldier, since he incidentally remarks, in 
a subsequent chapter, (p. 280), that he had been pre- 
sent at several battles in his time. This conjecture is 


further supported by the particular attention which 
he pays to the military organization and peculiar 
weapons of the different people described in the 
course of his narrative. The only additional intima- 
tion which he lets drop of his private history gives 
us to understand that he was a married man, and was 
the father of several children (p. 259). 

The motives which led him to undertake this 
journey are briefly set forth in the dedication of his 
Itinerary. He had an insatiable desire of becoming 
acquainted with foreign countries, not unmixed with 
ambition for the renown which had been awarded 
to preceding geographers and travellers ; but being 
conscious, withal, of his inaptitude to attain that 
object by reading, " knowing himself to be of very 
slender understanding" and disinclined to study, he 
" determined, personally, and with his own eyes, to 
endeavour to ascertain the situations of places, the 
qualities of peoples, the diversities of animals, the 
varieties of the fruit-bearing and odoriferous trees of 
Egypt, Syria, Arabia Deserta and Felix, Persia, 
India, and Ethiopia, remembering well that the testi- 
mony of one eye-witness is worth more than ten 
thousand hearsays." His surprising travels in search 
of this knowledge are recorded in the accompanying- 
narrative with an ingenuousness and honesty, and his 
personal adventures with a ready wit and humour, 
which do credit to his head and heart ; the remark- 
able success of his book is attested by the successive 
editions which were called for in the course of a few 
years after its first publication, and its translation 


into several European languages ; but what reward 
was reaped by the enterprising traveller himself, be- 
yond the barren honour of knighthood conferred upon 
him by Don Francisco de Almeyda after the battle 
of Ponani, and subsequently confirmed by Don 
Emanuel of Portugal, we have no means of ascer- 
taining. As far as we know, the copyright of his 
Itinerary, secured to himself and to his heirs for ten 
years, officially granted at the special mandate of 
Pope Julius II., by the Cardinal Chamberlain of the 
Court of Rome, as appears from the document at- 
tached to the first edition of 1510, was the only 
recompense bestowed upon him by his admiring but 
parsimonious countrymen. 

Turning from the author to the author's book, I 
do not see how I can better introduce it than bv 
rapidly leading the reader over the route pursued, 
halting here and there to illustrate the traveller's 
journeyings by brief sketches of the history of the 
countries visited, and the different people with whom 
he came in contact. The antecedent investigations 
of Dr. Vincent and Dr. Robertson, and the very 
recent researches of Mr. R. H. Major, who in his 
able Introduction to India in the Fifteenth Century has 
done much towards exhausting the subject of the 
ancient intercourse with India prior to the discovery 
of the route via the Cape of Good Hope, must be my 
excuse for not venturing to supplement their learned 
essays in that line, — a task, moreover, for which I 
am utterly unqualified. With this candid admission, 
1 shall now pass on to the narrative under review. 


Varthema appears to have left Europe towards the 
end of 1502, and reached Alexandria about the 
beginning of the following year, from whence he 
proceeded by the Nile to Cairo. In his brief re- 
marks on that city, he corrects the exaggerated idea 
of its extent which seems to have prevailed in the 
West even after his time ; for we find Giovan Leoni 
Africano enumerating it as " une delle maggiore e 
mirabili citta che siano nel mondo." 1 His summary 
account of the people and government is surprisingly 
accurate : — " The inhabitants are Moors [Arabs] and 
Mamluks. The lord over them is the Grand Sultan, 
who is served by the Mamluks, and the Mamluks 
are lords over the Moors." Egypt, at the time, was 
governed by the Borjeeh Mamliik Sultan, El-Ashraf 
Kansooh el-Ghon, whose territories comprised Syria 
as far as the Taurus in Cilicia on the north, and the 
Euphrates on the east. Already, the Turks under 
Bayazid II. had attempted to wrest Egypt from the 
hands of the Mamluks ; but their invasion in 1490 
resulted in nothing beyond the annexation of Tarsus 
and Adana. It remained for Bayazid's second son, 
Selim L, surnamed El-Yauz, about thirty years later, 
to put an end to a military dynasty which for up- 
wards of two centuries and a half had usurped the 
authority of the 'Abbaside Khalifs, whose representa- 
tive in the person of El-Mustansik bTllah must have 
been residing in Egypt, in comparative obscurity, at 
the period of our author's visit. 

From Egypt Varthema sailed to Syria, landed at 

1 Hamusio, vol. i. p. 83. 


Beyroot, and travelled by Tripoli to Aleppo. He 
notices the concourse of Persians and other foreigners 
at the latter place, which, until the route via the 
Cape of Good Hope became the great highway to 
and from India, was one of the principal stations of 
the overland transit trade between the Mediterranean 
on the one side, and Persia and the Persian Gulf on 
the other. Passing through Hamah, the Hamath of 
Scripture, and Menin in the vicinity of Helbon, still 
famous for the quality of its grapes, he arrived at 
Damascus, where he appears to have sojourned 
several w T eeks, and to have made good use of his 
time in acquiring some knowledge of colloquial 
Arabic. Here, he became acquainted with the Mam- 
luks of the garrison, and by means of money, accord- 
ing to his own statement, induced a captain of that 
body, who was a renegade Christian, to attach him 
to a company under his command ; but he cautiously 
reserves, what is highly probable, that a profession of 
Islamism was exacted as a necessary condition of his 
enrolment among the Mamliiks. Whether on assum- 
ing the new name of Yiinas, (Jonah,) he underwent 
any more special initiation than that of repeating the 
simple formula, " There is no god but the God, and 
Muhammed is His Apostle," does not transpire ; but 
the sequel of his narrative proves, that he had been 
tolerably well instructed in the outward ceremonies 
of Islam, and by practice, combined with an inquir- 
ing disposition, and a great facility in adapting him- 
self to circumstances, eventually attained as correct 
an insight into the doctrines of the Koran as is pos- 
sessed by the generality of Mussulmans. 


This is not the place to discuss the morality of an 
act, involving the deliberate and voluntary denial of 
what a man holds to be the Truth in a matter so 
sacred as that of Religion. Such a violation of con- 
science is not justifiable by the end which the rene- 
gade may have in view, however abstractedly praise- 
worthy it may be ; and even granting that his demerit 
should be gauged by the amount of knowledge which 
he possesses of what is true and what false, the con- 
clusion is inevitable, that nothing short of utter igno- 
rance of the precepts of his faith, or a conscientious 
disbelief in them, can fairly relieve the Christian, who 
conforms to Islamism without a corresponding per- 
suasion of its verity, of the deserved odium which all 
honest men attach to apostasy and hypocrisy. 

Forming one of the Mamliik escort of the Hajj 
Caravan, Varthema set out from Damascus on the 8th 
of April 1503 on the march towards El-Medinah. 
Among the few Europeans who have recorded their 
visits to the Holy Places of the Mussulmans, he is 
still the only one who has succeeded in reaching 
them by that route. Joseph Pitts of Exeter in a.d. 
1680, Ali Bey in 1807, Giovanni Finati in 1811, 
Burckhardt in 1814, and Burton in 1853, all pene- 
trated into the Hijaz and returned therefrom by the 
lied Sea. In this respect, therefore, our author's 
narrative is unique ; nevertheless, we have the means 
of testing its authenticity by the Hajj Itinerary from 
Damascus compiled with so much care by Burck- 
hardt. This has been attempted in the annotations 
on the text of the present edition, and the result is 


alike confirmatory of Varthema's intelligence and 
accuracy. A journey of thirty days through a desert, 
which Sir John Maundeville and other travellers long 
after him would have filled with images of their own 
marvellous imaginations, is recounted in the sober 
colouring of a tourist of our own times, enlivened 
ever and anon with vivid sketches of the wild country 
and tribes through which the Caravan wended its soli- 
tary way. His description of the Bedawin, of their 
marauding incursions and mode of warfare, is mi- 
nutely correct, and the picture which he portrays 
of an Arab encampment is as true to life now as it 
was three centuries and a half ago. 

Among the most interesting incidents contained 
in this portion of Varthema's peregrinations is the 
Caravan halt near " a mountain inhabited by Jews," 
within three days' march of El-Medinah. The stature 
of these people, which he limits to two feet in height, 
w r as either taken on trust from his Muhammedan 
companions, or estimated irrespective of the distance 
at which he saw them ; but tinged with borrowed 
fable as this part of his narrative undoubtedly is, the 
existence of a Jewish colony in that locality for ages 
anterior to his time is a w 7 ell authenticated fact, 
though every trace of them, beyond an unfounded 
rumour that their descendants still existed there, 
performing in secret all the ceremonies of their reli- 
gion, had disappeared when Burckhardt visited the 
Hijaz. Arabian authors refer the foundation of the 
settlement to different periods extending as far back 
as the days of Moses ; but the most probable account 


is that their first immigration occurred after the 
devastation of Juclea by the armies of Nebuchad- 
nezzar, and that the colony was enlarged by succes- 
sive bands of refugees in after times down to the 
destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, and the persecu- 
tions to which they were subjected under the Em- 
peror Adrian. 

On entering El-Medinah, " wishing to see every 
thing," our traveller's party engaged the services of 
a Muzmvivir, or guide, whose duty it doubtless was 
then, as it is still, to instruct the pilgrims in the ap- 
pointed ceremonies of the Ilajj, as well as to accom- 
pany them in the character of ordinary ciceroni. The 
principal object of interest here was the tomb of 
Muhammed, and with one or two minor exceptions, 
attributable probably to his imperfect knowledge of 
Arabic, our author's detailed description of the inte- 
rior and exterior of the Mosque is strikingly verified 
by the later accounts of it as given by Burckhardt 
and Burton. He takes occasion, moreover, in the 
course of his observations, to correct the absurd 
notion, which prevailed extensively in those days, 
that the Prophet's coffin was made of metal, and 
hung in mid air by the attraction of a powerful 

Another superstition which the party ventured to 
question on the spot, was the supernatural light 
which the more credulous Moslems believe to issue 
from the sepulchre of their Prophet, as firmly as 
pious Christians of the Greek rite believe in the fable 
of the Holy Fire as it is manufactured at Jerusalem. 

3JTY 1 


The discussion which took place on this subject 
between the Captain of the Mamluks and certain 
Sherifs of the Mosque reveals the renegade's general 
disbelief in Muhammedanism ; though it may well be 
doubted whether such an unreserved manifestation 
of it could have been attempted with impunity ex- 
cept by a person in his position. 

The character of the townspeople, which is pro- 
verbially bad, elicits from Varthema the epithet of 
" canaglia," and expressing equal disgust at " the 
vanities of Muhammed," which form the staple at- 
tractions to the pilgrim visitors at El-Medinah, or 
The City, par excellence, he resumes his onward jour- 
ney towards Meccah, which was accomplished in ten 
days. The intervening country appears to have been 
in. a very unsettled state, for he records two skir- 
mishes with large bands of Arabs, and ascribes the 
cause to the prevalence of a great war between 
four brothers who were fighting for the lordship of 
Meccah. In a subsequent chapter, whilst describing 
Juddah, he mentions incidentally that the govern- 
ment of that town was administered by one of the 
brothers of " Barachet," who was then the ruling 
" Sultan of Meccah." 

By the latter designation, we are undoubtedly to 
understand the " Sherif," which title, as applied to 
the Arab ruler of Meccah, has entirely superseded 
the more ancient one of " Amir." The particular 
family from which candidates for that dignity were 
elected claim, in common with several others which 
assume the same honourable distinction, to be the 


descendants of Hasan, the eldest son of 'Ali, through 
his two sons Zaid and Hasan el-Musanna ; but the 
first historical notice which we possess of their terri- 
torial jurisdiction in the Hijaz, is given by Ibn Shub- 
nah, during the reign of the Ayyubite princes in 
Yemen, who records that in his time El-Medinah 
and Meccah were severally governed by two mem- 
bers of that family, each bearing the title of "Amir." 1 
Although exercising almost sovereign power within 
the limits assigned to them, the Sherifs were avowedly 
subordinate to the successive Khalifs of the Omeyya 
and 'Abbaside dynasties, and subsequently to the 
Mamliik Sultans of Egypt, whose prerogative it was 
to recognize their authority by investing them annu- 
ally with a robe of honour. This suzerainty, in his 
time, is casually adverted to by Varthema, who 
speaks of the lord of Juddah and the Sultan of 
Meccah as being " subject to the Grand Sultan of 

But a supremacy which, in effect, was barely 
nominal, seldom availed to maintain public order in 
the Hijaz, more especially whenever rival factions 
among the Sherifs contended for the chief magistracy 
of Meccah. Such family feuds were of constant 
occurrence, and one was actually in progress at the 
time of our traveller's visit, and his incidental re- 
marks on the subject are so strikingly corroborated 
by native historical records, as to merit special illus- 
tration. The following passages, translated from the 
Kurrat el-Ayun, an Arabic manuscript Chronicle of 

1 See D'Herbklox, sub voce Meccah. v 


Yemen, besides substantiating the statements of Var- 
thema, afford a general view of the political condi- 
tion of the Hijaz at the period referred to : — 

" a. ii. 906. In the month of ZuF Kaadah of this year, 
[corresponding with parts of May and June, a.d. 1500,] a 
battle took place between the Sherif Haza'a bin Muhammed 
bin Barakat and his brother Barakat ibn Muhammed, the 
lord of the Hijaz, wherein the latter was overcome and put 
to flight, the Egyptian escort seizing all his property, and 
depriving him of everything. The cause was as follows: — 
When El-'Adil Tuman Bey, lord of Egypt, succeeded El- 
Ashraf Janblat, he expelled an amir of the latter named 
Kansooh el-Mahmady, known as El-Burj, who proceeded to 
Meccah ; but neither the Sherif nor the Kaclhi, nor any of 
the nobles, took any notice of him, fearing the displeasure of 
Tuman Bey. On the death, of Tuman Bey, he was succeeded 
by El-Ashraf Kansooh el-Ghori, who forthwith sent a letter 
to El-Burj, appointing him Niiib of Damascus. Thereupon 
the Sherif went to pay his respects to him ; but he refused 
to receive him on account of his former conduct. Haza'a 
being then at Meccah, Kansooh el-Burj instigated him to 
assume the government of Meccah, and to place his brother 
Barakat over it [as his subordinate.] To this end he directed 
him to go to Yembo, and sent word to the Amir of the 
Egyptian Ilajj to meet him there, to make over to him the 
imperial firmans, and to invest him with the imperial robe. 
This was accordingly done ; and Haza'a put on the robe 
which had been brought for his brother Barakat, and dressed 
his brother El- Jazani in the clothes which he himself wore 
when he presided with his brother Barakat. He then pro- 
ceeded with the Egyptian caravan towards Meccah, accom- 
panied by about one hundred of the Sherifs of the Benu- 
Ibrahim. On hearing this, Barakat went out as far as the 
Wadi Marka to meet them, when a battle ensued wherein 


Haza'a was routed several times, about thirty of his followers 
were killed, and some parts of the caravan plundered. The 
Egyptian escort then charged with Haza'a, whereupon Bara- 
kat fled, leaving his son Abu'l-Kasam and several of his 
soldiers dead on the field. After this, the Egyptians entered 
the house of Barakat, seized all he had, his women included, 
whom they also plundered. Barakat took refuge in Juddah, 
and Haza'a entered Meccah with the Egyptian escort ; but 
the city became much disturbed, outrages and fear increased 
on the roads, and the pilgrims who had come by sea returned 
home ; consequently the Hajj was very small, and the Sherif 
Barakat did not perform it. When the Hajj was over, 
Haza'a reflected that the cause of all this mischief was owimr 
to his contention with his brother Barakat ; and fearing lest 
he might be attacked by him in Meccah, he accompanied the 
Damascus caravan to Yembo, whither Barakat pursued him ; 
but the escort protected Haza'a against him. So Barakat 
returned to Meccah, and peace and security were reesta- 
blished among the people and on the roads. 

"But the year following [a.d. 1501] Haza'a and Barakat 
again encountered each other in a place called Taraf el- 
Burka, when the latter was overcome, and his brother Abu- 
Da'anaj, with seven of the Sherifs of the Benu-Nima, toge- 
ther with fourteen of the Turks on his side, were killed. 
On this occasion Haza'a had with him three thousand two 
hundred horsemen, and Barakat only five hundred. The 
latter fled till he reached Salkhat el-Ghorab, and Haza'a 
went to Juddah, where he proclaimed an amnesty to the 
inhabitants, and appointed Muhammed ibn Rajah ibn Sam- 
balali his deputy, and one of his slaves governor in Juddah, 
and sent his brother, El-Jazani, to Meccah, to settle matters 
in that quarter, whither he subsequently followed him with 
a military force. Some time after, a robe of investiture and 
a firman were sent to him from Egypt, and he took up his 
residence in Meccah. 



" On the fifteenth of the month of Rajab, [25th December 
1501,] Haza'a ibn Muhammed ibn Barak at was removed to 
the mercy of God, and his brother El-Jazani succeeded him, 
through the influence of the Kadhi Abu es-Sa'ud ibn Ibra- 
him ibn Dhuheirah. 

" a.h. 908. In the month of Sha'aban of this year [cor- 
responding with January a.d. 1502] there was a fierce battle 
between the Sherif el-Jazani and his brother Barakat at 
Munhenna, to the eastward of Mcccah, in which the Sherif 
Barakat was thoroughly routed, and all the principal men of 
his armies killed, he himself escaping with only a few adhe- 

" In the month of Rajab of the same year [December 
a.d. 1502] the Sherif El-Jazani ibn Muhammed ibn Barakat 
was killed near the gate of the Kaabah by a band of Turks, 
on account of some outrages which he had committed, and 
they set up in his place his brother Humeidhah. Towards 
the end of that same year [between March and May 1503] 
the Sherif Barakat fled from Egypt [by which it would 
appear that he had been taken there as a prisoner] with the 
connivance of the Amir ed-Duweidar, 1 and brought with 
him a large army, which he collected from among the Beni 
Lam, the Ahl esh-Shark, and the Findiyin, and he pre- 
vented the people from performing the JVaJciif," until the 
Amir of the Hajj gave him four thousand ashrafi to clear the 
road between them and the [place of the] Wakuf ; where- 
upon he was able to accompany the people to Arafat and 
Muzdelifah and Mina f but in the meantime the followers 

1 This was the first dignitary of the state, after the sovereign, 
during the regency of the Mamluks. The office corresponded with 
that of the Grand Wazir among the Turks, and the court of the 
Amir ed-Duweidar was almost equal to that of the Sultan. 

~ One of the ceremonies connected with the Pilgrimage, which 
is performed at Arafat. Sec p. 43. 

:i See note 1 on p. 45. 


of Barakat plundered a caravan from Juddah,near the gates 
of Meccah." 

The facts thus recorded are corroborated by the 
author of the Ruah cr-Rudh, another Arabic chronicle 
of a later date ; but these extracts amply suffice to 
attest the truth of Varthema's incidental remarks 
respecting the feud which existed between the rival 
brothers Barakat, and the general insecurity of the 
country resulting therefrom. Moreover, a careful 
comparison of dates, as they may be gathered from 
our traveller's journal, with those given in the above 
quotations, renders it highly probable that the Arabs 
whom the caravan encountered between El-Medinah 
and Meccah, (see p. 35,) and those also who caused 
the precipitate rush from Arafat, (see p. 44,) consisted 
of adherents of one or other of the contending factions. 

To return to our review of the narrative. Entering 
Meccah with the Hajj, Varthema proceeds to give an 
account of the city and its inhabitants, noticing par- 
ticularly the great number of foreigners who had 
arrived there from the east and west, " some for pur- 
poses of trade, and some on pilgrimage for the pardon 
of their sins"; and the various commodities which 
were imported by them from Africa, the western 
coast of India, and the Bay of Bengal. Next, he takes 
us into the Great Mosque, describing the Ka'abah 
and the well Zemzem, with the various ceremonies 
performed there ; and thence he accompanies the 
pilgrims to Arafat, and returns with them in haste 
through the Valley of Mina, where he witnessed the 
customary lapidation of the " Great Devil." 



Considering that our author is the first European 
traveller on record who visited the holy places of the 
Muhammcdans, and taking into account how scanty 
must have been his previous knowledge of the history 
and distinctive doctrines of Islam, his description of 
Meccah and of the Ilajj may fairly claim to be 
regarded as a literary wonder. With but few excep- 
tions, his minutest details are confirmed by later and 
far more learned writers, whose investigations on the 
whole have added comparatively little to the know- 
ledge which we possess of the Mussulman pilgrimage 
through the pages of Varthema ; and the occasional 
correspondence between some of his statements and 
those of Burckhardt is so striking, as to give rise to 
the conjecture that that enterprising traveller had 
perused his book either before or after his own journey 
into the Hijaz. Burton, whose eastern learning and 
personal experience of the Hajj constitute him a most 
competent judge, bestows this well merited encomium 
on our author's narrative : — " But all things consi- 
dered, Ludovico Barthema, for correctness of observ- 
ation and readiness of wit, stands in the foremost rank 
of the old oriental travellers." 1 

The Ilajj over, Varthema being anxious to visit 
other countries, or disinclined to return by the same 
route he had come, meditated escape from his com- 
panions. Fortune favoured the design by throwing 
in his way a Mussulman trader who had been to 
Europe, and who agreed to aid him in the attempt, 

1 Personal Narrative of a "Pilgrimage to El-Medinah and Meccah, 
vol. ii. p. 352. 


on learning that he intended to manufacture " large 
mortars," to be used by the Moslems against the in- 
fidel Portuguese, and in consideration of having his 
goods passed free of duty out of Meccah, through our 
author's influence with the commander of the Mam- 
luks. He also furnished him with directions how to 
reach the court of the King of the Deccan, from 
which latter circumstance it is clear that Varthema 
had already contemplated a journey to India. Depart- 
ing himself with the caravan, the Mussulman con- 
fided his charge to the care of his wife, with instruc- 
tions to despatch him, on the following Friday, by the 
Indian Jcdfila proceeding to Juddah. According to 
his own statement, Varthema succeeded in gaining 
the affections of his kind hostess and her young niece, 
both of whom held out strong inducements for him 
to remain ; but he prudently " declined all their 
offers, on account of the present danger," and started 
towards the coast with the caravan, " to the no small 
regret of the said ladies, who made great lamenta- 

At Juddah, our traveller took refuge in a mosque, 
which was crowded with indigent pilgrims, and, 
fearing detection, pretended sickness, and even ab- 
stained from going abroad except by night in search 
of food. Nevertheless, his brief account of the place 
is quite correct, and judging from the number of 
vessels then in the harbour, which he estimates at 
one hundred, " great and small," the commerce of 
the port must have been much larger at that time 
than it is now, — a result mainly attributable to the 


Cape route having subsequently diverted much of 
the trade between India and Europe from its older 
channel via Egypt. 

In his description of the voyage down the Red 
Sea, (which he naively remarks is not red,) during 
which the vessel only sailed by day owing to the 
numerous coral-reefs and shoals which lie off the 
coast, Varthema mentions their landing at Jazan, 
now an unfrequented place, but at that time one of 
the principal ports of southern Arabia ; then their 
skirmish with some wild Bedawin, who are as wild 
still; next, their touching at the island of Camran, 
which he tells us was subject to the " Sultan of the 
Amanni," meaning the Imam of Sanaa, but whose 
territories were invaded a few years later by a 
combined Egyptian and Turkish army whose fleet 
anchored in that very place ; and finally the passage 
through the Straits of Bab el-Mandeb, and their safe 
arrival at Aden. Here, the day following, being sus- 
pected as a Christian spy in disguise, he was forth- 
with laden with irons, and placed in confinement 
together with another individual, apparently a fellow- 
passenger, whose name and country, however, do not 
transpire. Three days after, some refugees from a 
ship, which had been captured by the Portuguese, 
arriving at Aden, the suspicions of the inhabitants 
were confirmed, and it was only through the personal 
intervention of the deputy governor, who decided 
that the case should be referred to the Sultan, that 
they were saved from the vengeance of the infuriated 
inhabitants. Accordingly, after a delay of sixty-five 


days, the two captives were mounted on one camel, 
still in chains, and sent under an escort to Radaa, 
eight days' journey from Aden, where they under- 
went a preliminary examination before the Sultan ; 
but Varthema failing to pronounce the Muhamme- 
dan formula of faith, either through fear, or, as he 
says, " through the will of God," he and his com- 
panion were again cast into prison. 

Leaving them there to chew the bitter cud of re- 
pentance, it will not be out of place to notice the 
coincidence connected with the proceedings of the 
Portuguese in the Indian seas at this period, and the 
misfortunes which they entailed on our enterprising 

In a note on the text of this part of the narrative, 
I have adduced a passage from an Arabian historian, 
to the effect that in the year a.d. 1502, seven native 
vessels had been seized by the Franks between India 
and the island of Hormuz ; and most of the crews mur- 
dered. I am inclined to believe, however, that the 
case in which the refugees were concerned may be 
gathered more definitely, partly from Greene's Col~* 
lection, and partly from the journal of Thome Lopez. 
The former has the following : — 

" Stephen de Garaa being arrived on the coast of India, 
near Mount Deli, to the north of Kananor, he met a ship of 
great bulk, called the Meri [probably Miri, i.e. state pro- 
perty,] belonging to the Sultan of Egypt, which was very 
richly laden, and full of Moors of quality, who were going 
to Mekka. The ship being taken after a vigorous resistance, 
the General went on board, and sending for the principal 


Moors ordered them to produce such merchandizes as they 
had, threatening them, otherwise, to have them thrown into 
the sea. They pretended all their effects were at Kalekut; 
but one of them having been flung overboard, bound hand 
and foot, the rest, through fear, delivered their goods. All 
the children were carried into the General's ship, and the 
remainder of the plunder given to the sailors. After which, 
Stephen de Gama, by Don Vasco's order, set fire to the 
vessel ; but the Moors, having broken up the hatches under 
which they were confined, and quenched the flames with 
the water that was in the ship, Stephen was commanded to 
lay them aboard. The Moors, having been made desperate 
with the apprehension of their danger, received him with 
great resolution, and even attempted to burn the other 

" Night coming on, he was obliged to desist without doing 
his work ; but the General gave orders, that the vessel 
should be watched, that the passengers might not, by favour 
of the darkness, escape to land, which was near. All night 
long the poor unhappy Moors called on Muhammed to help 
them, but the dead can neither hear nor succour their vota- 
ries. In the morning, Stephen de Gama was sent to execute 
his former orders. He boarded the ship, and, setting fire to 
it, drove the Moors into the poop, who still defended them- 
selves ; for some of the sailors would not leave the vessel 
till it was half burnt. Many of the Moors, when they 
saw the flames approach them, leaped into the sea Avith 
hatchets in their hands, and, swimming, fought with their 
pursuers. Some even made up to, and attacked, the boats, 
doing much hurt ; however, most of them were at length 
slain, and all those drowned who remained in the ship, 
which soon after sunk. So that of three hundred persons, 
(among whom were thirty women,) not one escaped the fire, 
sword, or water." 1 

1 Greene's Collection of Voyages and Travels, vol. i. pp. 51-2. 


If this is the same act of piracy recorded by Thome 
Lopez, which appears tolerably certain, it occurred 
on the 29th of September 1502. The main incidents 
are identical, and he dilates with admiration on the 
gallant defence made by the Arabs, and stigmatizes 
the conduct of the Portuguese admiral as cruel and 
barbarous. But as all the unfortunate Arabs perished 
on that occasion, the case alluded to in Varthema's 
narrative, wherein several ships are said to have been 
captured and some of the crews to have escaped, 
must be a different one, though perhaps both were 
connected. The desideratum is supplied by Thome 
Lopez, who, in continuation of his account of the pre- 
vious engagement, describes, the chase of four Moorish 
ships immediately after, of which three escaped, and 
one was stranded, and the capture of two others on 
the 22nd and 26th of* October following. 1 The six 
or seven months which elapsed between these out- 
rages and Varthema's arrival at Aden, would allow 
time for any of the surviving crews to reach that 
place, and the coincidence thus established is another 
striking example of the accuracy of our author's state- 

In order to illustrate this still further, it will not 
be irrelevant to the subject to give a general outline 
of the political condition of Yemen at that period, 
referring the reader to the annotations on the text for 
the corroboration of particular facts mentioned in the 
course of the original narrative. 

During the reign of the more warlike Khalifs, the 
1 See Ramttsio, vol. i. pp. 136-38. 


turbulent tribes of Yemen appear to have been kept 
in tolerable subjection ; but towards the end of the 
tenth century the authority of the 'Abbasides became 
virtually extinct, and the country was divided into a 
number of petty sovereignties, each assuming differ- 
ent titles, and exercising various degrees of territorial 
jurisdiction. This state of things continued till the 
accession of Salah ed-Din, the first of the Ayyubite 
Sultans, whose brother Tooran Shah captured Sanaa, 
the capital of the province, about a.d. 1173, and 
reduced many of the independent chiefs both in the 
interior and on the coast to submission. Successive 
princes of that family continued to exercise a limited 
supremacy over Yemen long after the dynasty had 
been superseded by the Baharite Mamluks of Egypt ; 
but the country gradually relapsed into complete 
anarchy until about a.d. 1429, when the government 
was seized by two brothers of the Beni Tahir, named 
severally Shams ed-Din 'Ali and Salah ed-Din 'Amir 
surnamed El-Melek edh-Dhafir, claiming descent from 
the Koreish tribe, who eventually succeeded in taking 
possession of Sanaa, and in establishing their joint 
sway over the southern provinces of Yemen. The 
capital, however, was soon after retaken by its former 
governor Muhammed ibn Nasir, and in a fruitless 
attempt to recover it Salah ed Din 'Amir lost his life. 
The surviving brother was succeeded in 1454 by 
Mansiir Taj ed-Din 'Abd el-Wahhab, on whose death 
in 1488 the government fell into the hands of his 
nephew 'Amir ibn 'Abd el-Wahhab, who was the 
ruling sovereign of southern Yemen during the time 


of Varthema's visit. 1 On the accession of 'Amir ibn 
'Abel el-Wahhab the government of the peninsula, 
according to the author of the Rutih er-Ruah, was 
divided as follows : — " The Tehama, and Zebid, and 
Aden, and Lahej, and Abyan, as far as Radaii, were 
under 'Amir. Sanaa and its districts were subject to 
Muhammed ibn el-Imam 2 en-Nasir. Kaukaban and 
its districts under El-Mutahhir ibn Muhammed ibn 
Suleiman. Esh-Shark, and Edh-Dhawahir, and Sii'a- 
dah, with their dependencies, were divided between 
El-Muweyyed, the Sherifs of the Al el-Mansur, and 
the Imam el-Mansiir, Muhammed ibn 'Ali es-Seraji 

1 He mentions him by name as " Sechamir" or Sheikh 'Amir. 
See p. 83. 

2 In a religious sense, this title ordinarily designates the leader 
of the services in the Mosque, and as the Khalifs were recognized 
as spiritual as well as temporal presidents, they early adopted it. 
When the authority of the 'Abbasides declined in Yemen, it was 
assumed by the regents at Sanaa, who moreover usurped that of 
Amir el-Mu 'amanin, or Lord of the Faithful. In course of time, 
however, other rulers of Yemen seem to have called themselves 
" Imam ;" so that eventually it came to signify nothing more than 
a presiding prince, or one having authority over subordinate chiefs. 
At the present day, it would be difficult to trace the right of bear- 
ing the distinction to lineal descent; in fact, those who now use 
it in Yemen cannot lay claim to it on that score. On the other 
hand, in 'Amman it appears to have been conferred, by the general 
consent of the people, for some real or fancied excellence in the 
person of the sovereign ; and it is remarkable that whereas all the 
predecessors in the dynasty of the late Seyyed Sa'id bore the ap- 
pellation, he himself was never so styled except by Europeans, 
and his successor at Maskat is known only by the title of 
"Seyyed." I may also add that the title of "Imam" has fre- 
quently been given to renowned authors, either because they have 
at some period taken the lead in the religious services of the 
Mosque, or on account of their acknowledged learning and piety. 


It is easy to imagine, from the bare enumeration 
of these petty chiefdoms, that the country at this 
period was in a most distracted state ; but the genius 
and military prowess of 'Amir soon effected a great 
change. One after another, most of the inland chiefs 
submitted to his sway, and in a.d. 1501 he made an 
attempt to capture Sanaa, but was ignominiously 
repulsed. Determined, however, not to abandon the 
project which he had conceived of removing the only 
impediment to his complete ascendancy over Yemen, 
he two years after collected a vast army, which 
according to the Rudh cr-Ruah consisted of 180,000 
men, including 3,000 cavalry, and after a severe 
conflict entered the capital in triumph. 

Comparing the dates given by the Arabian his- 
torian with the probable time of Varthema's arrival 
at Kadaa, there can be no doubt that the 80,000 
troops which he saw reviewed there, and which he 
tells us marched two days after towards Sanaa, headed 
by the Sultan, was a portion of the army which shortly 
after, as has just been stated, succeeded in capturing 
that city. The" coincidence is as perfect as it was 
undesigned, and the inference substantiates with 
the highest proof the authenticity of our author's 

After a similar digression, wherein he describes in 
detail the arms and military equipment of the Sultan's 
army, Varthema invites us to return to his prison. 1 
There he would probably have languished for an in- 

1 Prisons in many parts of the East arc attached to the palace 
or residence of the governor. 


definite period but for the intervention of one of the 
Sultan's wives, whom he honours with the title of 
" queen," who, impelled by various motives, in- 
terested herself in his behalf, and employed her 
maidens to minister to his necessities. But Var- 
thema, intent on effecting his escape, and reasonably 
doubtful whether the queen's liberality alone was 
likely to promote that object, drew lots with his com- 
panion which of the two should feign madness, 1 — a 
stratagem of ancient date, if not of authority, (see 
1 Sam. xxi. 13 — 15.) The lot fell on our traveller, 
and if in the course of his simulation he sometimes 
transgressed the bonds of decency, the freaks were 
not inconsistent with his assumed character; and his 
examination by two hermits, or sheikhs, who were 
sent for to decide on the case, would probably have 
resulted in a confirmation of his sanctity, but for the 
practical joke which he imprudently played on the 
persons of the venerable examiners, which sent them 
scampering from the prison, exclaiming : " He is 
mad ! He is mad ! He is not holy !" 

The amusement which these eccentricities afforded 
the Sultana and her attendants is so inconsistent with 
our notions of female modesty as to be almost in- 
credible ; nevertheless, if the inner life of many native 
harims were similarly exposed to view, it would exhibit 
ladies of rank revelling in scenes far more revolting 
than those described in the " Chapter concerning the 

1 It is a popular superstition throughout the East to attribute 
madness to the influence of a separate spirit acting upon the 


Partiality of the Women of Arabia for White Men." 
What else, indeed, could reasonably be expected ? 
Brought up without education, confined to the seclu- 
sion of the women's apartments, and debarred from 
sharing in public amusements, it is not surprising that 
the uncultivated mind of eastern females should follow 
its natural bent, and seek to satisfy the longing for en- 
joyment, inherent in us all, by kindred gratifications. 

The queen was evidently convinced from the 
outset that our hero's madness was merely a feint ; 
but he very discreetly resisted all her consequent 
blandishments, only availing himself of them as 
might best conduce to his own ends. Simulating 
sickness, he obtained her consent to visit a holy man 
at Aden renowned for miraculous cures, and was 
furnished, moreover, by her liberality with a camel 
and the very opportune gift of twenty-five ashrafi 1 
for the journey. On reaching Aden, he forthwith 
engaged a passage on board a native ship which was 
to sail for India, via the Persian Gulf, in the course 
of a month, and, taking advantage of that interval to 
escape from the notice of the Adenites, he set out on 
an excursion into the interior. 

In the subsequent pages, I have annotated so fully 
on the text of this part of our author's wanderings, 
that it would be superfluous to notice any details 
here. The Arabic MS. Chronicles already men- 
tioned and Niebuhr's voyages, conjoined with per- 
sonal experience derived from natives of the country, 
have been my principal guides in illustrating his trip 

1 The ashrafi appears to have been equivalent to a ducat, or 
about J.v. t'u/. of our mono)'. 


into Yemen ; in fact, I am not aware that any others, 
in the shape of general travels, exist, unless it be the 
very meagre account given by Ibn Batuta in the 
fourteenth century. Varthema is undoubtedly the 
first European who has left us a description of this 
portion of Arabia, and between his time and the 
present, Niebuhr as far back as 1761, (with the ex- 
ception of several brief personal narratives of the 
route between Mokha and Sanaa, and a trip from 
thence to Mareb by Mons. Arnaud in 1843,) is the 
only European traveller who has penetrated into the 
country more than a few miles from the sea-coast. 
Even Niebuhr's journey, performed in comparative 
security and luxury, does not embrace so large an 
extent of Yemen as that of our author ; but where- 
ever his testimony or that of others was available, it 
substantiates in a remarkable manner the accuracy 
of Varthema's observations. The annexed abstract 
of his route conveys, in a tabular form, the different 
towns visited, with their approximate distances : — 

Aden to Damt, 1 via Lahej and 'Az'az 

Damt to Yerim, via, El-Makranah 

Yerim to Sanaa 

Sanaa to Ta'ez 

Ta'ez to Zebid 

Zebid to Dhamar 

Dhamar to Aden 


















Total 595 

1 In a note on the text (p. 75) I have identified this place, which 
Varthema calls " Dante," with Niebuhr's Dimne ; but on second 
thoughts I think it more likely that it represents his Denn, which 
he describes as " une petite ville, avec une bonne citadelle, et line 
place de foire." Voy. en Arabic, vol. hi. p. 214. 


On his return to Aden, of which place he gives a 
very accurate description, Varthema again sought 
refuge in a mosque under pretence of sickness ; but 
when the time for departure arrived, he was smuggled 
on board by the conniving Arab skipper, who doubt- 
less received some of the queen's ashrafi which Her 
Majesty had given for a different purpose. Sailing 
towards the Persian Gulf, the vessel probably en- 
countered one of those north-westerly gales which, 
at the season of the year when I have calculated the 
voyage to have been made, blow for several days 
together along the north-east coast of Arabia. Being 
obliged to veer, they ran with a fair wind for the 
north-east coast of Africa, anchoring first at Zaila, 
from whence they subsequently proceeded to the 
contiguous snug port of Berbera, 

Varthema's account of Zaila comprises all that there 
is to be said of the place. He notices the large number 
of Abyssinian slaves which were exported from thence 
to different parts, — a traffic which has only been ar- 
rested within the last few years ; the various produce 
which found its way there from the interior ; some 
of the animals peculiar to the country ; and his de- 
scription of the Somali inhabitants is true to life 
still. Except that he erroneously calls Berbera an 
island, (wherein he possibly translated from the 
Arabic jezirah, a term which the natives also apply 
to a peninsula, and sometimes conventionally to 
havens on the mainland,) his brief account of that 
locality also, and of the pastoral habits of the people, 
is equally truthful. 


Though originally bound for the Persian Gulf, the 
Arab skipper most probably picked up some addi- 
tional freight at the above-mentioned places for 
India, between which and the north-east coast of 
Africa a considerable trade is still carried on, chiefly 
by Borah merchants of Guzerat and Cutch. This 
commerce, which in more ancient times appears to 
have been conducted through the intermediate ports 
of Hadhramaut on the north-east coast of Arabia, 
eventually took the more direct route across the 
Indian ocean, and was in full play when the Portu- 
guese first found their way to the Red Sea. The 
fact of the skipper having made for Zaila proves that 
the voyage occurred during the north-east monsoon, 
which is the only season for foreign trade there, 
the coast being generally dangerous throughout the 
opposite or south-westerly monsoon. 

In twelve days, the vessel reached the small island 
of Diu in Guzerat, which Varthema calls " Diu 
bander-er-rumi," i.e., Diu the Port of the Bum, and 
describes with his usual accuracy. The suffix, which 
I have not met with elsewhere, was probably a con- 
ventional designation among the Arabs owing to so 
many " Turkish merchants," (more correctly, Cir- 
cassians, Affghans, and Persians,) being resident 
there. The familiar intercourse which existed be- 
tween that part of Western India and the opposite 
coast of Arabia is attested by incidental notices 
occurring in Arabian chronicles of the time. 

From Diu, the ship proceeded up the Gulf of 
Cambay to Gogo, and from thence steered across 



the Indian Ocean, doubling Mussendom, to Julfar, 
an Arab town on the western side of that pro- 
montory, which was subsequently occupied by the 
Portuguese as a station for the pearl-fishery. Here, 
a retrograde movement was made by redoubling 
Mussendom in order to reach Maskat, of which 
place our author barely gives the name, and the next 
port gained was Hormuz, where he appears to have 
sojourned for several days. 

The eligibility of that island, situated directly in 
the line of the Indian trade, via the Persian Gulf, 
appears to have given it considerable importance as 
a commercial emporium at a very early period. If it 
was the Nekrokis of Benjamin of Tudela, which is 
highly probable though his description of that place 
is most perplexing, it was largely frequented by 
traders to and from India in the middle of the 
twelfth century. A century later, Marco Polo makes 
it the resort of many merchants who brought thither 
spices, pearls, precious stones, elephants' teeth, " and 
all other precious things from India ;" and 'Abd er- 
Razzak, sixty years prior to our traveller, says that 
" the merchants of the seven climates all make their 
way to this port." Varthema's account of the island, 
— its situation near the mainland, its utter barrenness 
and yet withal its prosperity as " a chief maritime 
port, where sometimes as many as three hundred 
vessels are assembled," — is in perfect accordance 
with these preceding travellers, and he describes the 
mode of fishing for pearls just as it exists at the 
present day. 


All this is now changed, and Hormuz, like the 
Tyre of Scripture, is little better than a rock for 
fishermen to spread their nets on. It was captured 
by the Portuguese under Albuquerque in 1508, who 
were in turn expelled in 1662 by the Persians, aided 
by a British fleet, during the reign of Shah Abbas, 
who caused the colony to be removed to Gombrim 
on the opposite mainland, and dignified it with the 
name of Bander Abbas. The intervention of Great 
Britain in this affair is thus judiciously commented 
on by Sir John Malcolm : — 

" If the English ever indulged a hope of deriving per- 
manent benefit from the share they took in this transaction, 
they were completely disappointed. They had, it is true, 
revenged themselves upon an enemy they hated, destroyed 
a flourishing settlement, and brought ruin and misery upon 
thousands, to gratify the avarice and ambition of a despot, 
who promised to enrich them by a favour, which they should 
have known was not likely to protect them, even during his 
life, from the violence and injustice of his own officers, much 
less during that of his successors. The history of the English 
factory at Gombroon, from this date till it was abandoned, 
is one series of disgrace, of losses, and of dangers, as that of 
every such establishment in a country like Persia must be. 
Had that nation either taken Ormuz for itself, or made a 
settlement on a more eligible island in the gulf, it would 
have carried on its commerce with that quarter to much 
greater advantage ; and its political influence, both in Persia 
and Arabia, would have remained unrivalled." 1 

We are now to accompany our traveller through a 
part of the journey where the landmarks of his route 

' History of Persia, vol. i. p. 547. 

c 2 


are less distinctly traceable. We must, of course, 
suppose him to have crossed over to the mainland ; 
but how far he had penetrated into the interior when 
he writes : " Departing thence, I passed into Persia, 
and travelling for twelve days I found a city called 
Eri," is not specified. Nevertheless, as I see no 
cause to question his visit to Eri, the ancient name 
of Herat, and as it is tolerably certain that he could 
not have reached that place in the time given, we 
may reasonably infer either that an error has in this 
instance crept into the original narrative, or that 
Varthema dates his departure from a point which he 
has omitted to record. As far as his rather summary 
account of Herat goes, — of the city, its productions, 
its manufactures, and its population, — his information 
is perfectly correct ; and that fact, taken in conjunc- 
tion with a subsequent avowal that he described 
Samarcand by report only, may be fairly regarded as 
a proof of his veracity ; for if he was disposed to mis- 
represent in the one case, there is no reason why he 
should not have done so in the other. 

Twenty days' march from Herat brought our tra- 
veller to " a large and fine river, called Eufra," which 
" on account of its great size" he supposes to be the 
Euphrates. As he was then three days distant from 
Shiraz, to which city the onward road lay " to the left 
hand" of his Eufra, I have supposed him to have struck 
on the Pulwan at or near Merghab, a little to the 
southward of which town there appears to be a high- 
way, leading by Istakar, to a point below the junction 
of the Pulwiln with the Bendemir, from whence it is 


continued to Shiraz. Should this identification be 
correct, (and I can suggest no other, unless he pur- 
sued a route by Neyriz and Bakhtcgan, mistaking 
the neighbouring lake which goes by those names for 
a river,) Varthema must unquestionably be charged 
with exaggeration, as neither the Fulwan nor the 
Bendemir is entitled to the epithet of " a large and 
fine river." 

Arrived at Shiraz, which our author describes as a 
great mart for turquoises and Balass rubies, remark- 
ing, however, that those stones were not produced 
there, but came, as was reported, from a city called 
" Balachsam" (Badakshan,) accident threw him in 
the way of a Persian merchant called " Cazazionor," 
by whom he was recognized as a fellow-pilgrim at 
Meccah, and whose friendly overtures on the occasion 
were destined to exert a powerful influence in shaping 
his subsequent course. 

We, who carry with us on our travels circular 
notes or letters of credit negotiable in any part of 
the globe, can form a very inadequate conception of 
the difficulties which an adventurer under Varthema's 
circumstances must have encountered in making his 
way from one place to another. He never alludes 
directly to the subject, but his management may be 
gleaned from incidental passages occurring in his 
narrative. At the outset, he appears to have had a 
supply of money, for he bribed the Captain of the 
Mamliiks to admit him into that corps. While with 
them, he probably received pay and shared in their 
exactions, which, with any remains of his original 


funds, sufficed to take him to Aden. From thence, 
he was sent into the interior, as the saying is, at 
Government expense, and the liberality of the Arabian 
sultana furnished his viaticum as far as Shiraz ; for, it 
may be remarked, that there is not the slightest evi- 
dence to prove his having engaged in any commercial 
transactions up to that period, and, if he did so sub- 
sequently, it was merely as sleeping partner to his 
Persian benefactor. Be that as it may, his encounter 
with the latter was a piece of good fortune, without 
which it may fairly be questioned whether he would 
have been able to extend his travels as far as he did. 
On the other hand, the Persian merchant, who ap- 
pears to have been a wealthy trader in jewels, was 
evidently glad to secure an intelligent companion in 
the projected journey, and his oriental hospitality 
looked for no other recompense. Instances of such 
generosity are not as uncommon in the East as in 
the West, and the experience of Varthema in this 
respect forms a striking contrast to that of Don Alonzo 
Enriquez de Guzman in the course of his European 
travels during the same century. 1 

The first place for which our travellers started in 
company was Samarcand, whether with the intention 
of limiting the trip to that city, or of making their 
way from thence to India, does not appear. How- 
ever, they had not proceeded far when they were 
obliged to return, because " the Soffi was going 
through this country putting every thing to fire and 

1 Hakluyt Society's Publications, The Life and Acts of 
Don Alonzo de Guzman, translated and edited by C. 11. Markham. 


flame ; and especially he put to the sword all those 
who believed in Bubachar and Othman and Aumar, 
who are all companions of Mahomet ; but he leaves 
unmolested those who believe in Mahomet and Ali." 
Here, we have another undesigned coincidence with 
contemporary Persian history which deserves special 
notice. Isma'il es-Sufi, the first of the Sufawian 
dynasty, was the son of the famous Sheikh Haidar, 
the son of Juneid the great grandson of Seif ed-Din, 
who claimed descent from 'Ali by Hussein his second 
son, whose branch, according to the Persians, is that 
of the Imams. Haidar's mother was the daughter of 
Hasan Beg, the first of the Turkman dynasty called 
BayanduiT, who furnished his son-in-law with an 
army to avenge the death of his father Juneid, who 
had been killed in battle with Ferukhzad king of 
Shirwan ; but Haidar lost his life in the attempt, his 
two sons Isma'il and 'Ali Mirza were made prisoners, 
and most of his adherents destroyed. Haidar's two 
sons were afterwards set at liberty by Rustam Beg, 
the grandson of Hasan Beg, who succeeded his 
uncle Ya'acub. The subsequent portion of Tsmai'il's 
career illustrative of our narrative, I translate from 
DTIerbelot : — 

" At this period there were among the Mussulmans scat- 
tered throughout Asia an infinite number of people who 
professed publicly the sect of 'Ali, and especially the dis- 
tinctive form of it ascribed to Haider, which Sheik Sufi 
one of his illustrious ancestors had raised into high repute. 
Isma'il Sufi, hearing that there were a great many of these 
in Caramania, which is the ancient Cilicia, repaired thither, 


and raised a levy of seven thousand men attached to the sect, 
and more particularly devoted to his family, because either 
they or their fathers had been delivered out of the hands of 
Tamerlane through the intercession of Sheik Sufi. 

" Young Isma'il, who was then only fourteen years old, 
undertook with this handful of men to wage war with 
Ferukhzad, king of Shir wan, a province of Media, whom 
he regarded as the murderer of his father. This enterprise 
was so successful, that he challenged and slew his enemy, 
seized his kingdom, and thereby gained a position which 
opened Asia to his ambition. 

" This first essay in arms took place a.h. 906, correspond- 
ing exactly with a.d. 1500, and the following year Isma'il 
attacked and took the city of Tabriz, obliging Alvend, the 
grandson of Usuncassan [Hasan Beg] who reigned there, 
to flee and shut himself up in Baghdad ; but that sultan was 
forced to leave that city also and take refuge in Diarbekir, 
where he died, a.h. 910, and Baghdad fell into the hands 
of Isma'il. 

" In a.h. 908, [a.d. 1052,] Isma'il Shah, after making 
himself master of Tabriz, Media, and Chaldea, turned 
his arms against Persia, where another grandson of Usun- 
cassan reigned, named Murad Beg, or 'Amrath son of 
Ya'acub Beg. This prince, finding himself vigorously at- 
tacked by his adversary, wished to decide the contest by a 
general engagement. Leaving Shiraz with that object, he 
marched towards Hamadan, where the battle took place, 
wherein he was overcome and obliged to flee to Baghdad, 
as his cousin Alvend had done before him. 

" In a.h. 909, [a.d. 1503,] Isma'il having besieged Murad 
in Baghdad, the latter took to flight, and running from one 
province to another was ultimately slain by the soldiers of 
Isma'il." 1 

1 Bibliotkeque Orientate, sub voce Ismael. 


The disturbed state of the country consequent on 
these intestine politico- religious contests may reason- 
ably be inferred, and as they were at their height 
during Varthema's sojourn in Persia, his incidental 
notice of them, as interrupting his journey to Samar- 
cand, is entitled to be regarded as a strong internal 
proof of the truthfulness of his narrative. 

The Persian merchant became so much attached 
to our traveller during the abortive attempt to reach 
Samarcand, that on their return to Shiraz he inti- 
mated to the latter his intention of giving him the 
hand of his niece, who was called " Samis, that is, the 
Sun," and so far transgressed Mussulman etiquette in 
his favour as to present him personally to the damsel, 
with whom Varthema "pretended to be much pleased, 
although his mind was intent on other things." He 
tells us, however, that his destined bride was " ex- 
tremely beautiful, and had a name which suited her ;" 
and lest the designation should be considered a mis- 
nomer, it must be remembered that the Sun takes 
the feminine gender in most of the oriental languages. 

Starting afresh from Shiraz, the two travellers 
reached Hormuz, where they embarked for India, 
and in due course anchored " at a port which is 
called Cheo, near to a very large river called the 
Indus, which Indus is near a city called Combeia." 
Faulty as Varthema's geography is of that part of 
the coast, there is no difficulty in identifying his 
" Cheo" with Joah, or Kow, a village on one of the 
estuaries of the Indus about four miles from the sea, 
which is still frequented by native boats trading with 


Scind. His account of Cambay, however, which is 
the next port gained, — of the city ; its situation 
near another river (the Myhee;) the produce of the 
district, comprising abundance of grain, " an im- 
mense quantity of cotton" and manufactured silk 
stuffs, with which between forty and fifty vessels 
were laden every year ; and the cornelians and chal- 
cedonies for which Cambay is still famous ; — in all 
these particulars his description is as applicable now 
as it was then. Moreover, the extraordinary tides 
called the Bore, which prevail in the Gulf of Cam- 
bay, are recognizable in his remarks on that subject, 
although he erroneously makes the waters " rise in 
the reverse of ours," that is, " when the moon is on 
the wane." 

Before accompanying our author any farther, it 
may serve to illustrate his subsequent progress, and 
obviate needless repetition, if we take a general view 
of the political state of Western India at this period. 

Till the end of the fourteenth century, Guzerat 
was a dependency of the Affghan or Ghori empire 
of Hindustan, -and in a.d. 1391 Nasir-ed-Din Mu- 
hammed Shah bin Firuz Shah, the ruling emperor, 
appointed Dhafir Khan viceroy over that province ; 
but the disorders which subsequently ensued among 
the successors of Firuz Shah induced Dhafir Khan to 
throw off his allegiance to the court of Delhi, and in 
1408 he declared himself independent under the title 
of Muzaffir Shah. Three years later, he was poisoned 
by his grandson Ahmed Shah, who succeeded him on 
the throne of Guzerat, and the sovereignty continued 


in the same family till the accession of Mahmud Shah, 
snrnamed Bigarrah, who was the reigning sultan when 
Varthema reached Cambay. 

The next native state with which onr narrative 
brings us in contact is the Mussulman kingdom of 
the Deccan, comprising several dependencies in the 
Concan, of which the principal appear to have been 
Dabul and Goa, ruled by tributary governors, and 
extending as far south on the coast as the vicinity of 
Varthema's " Bathacala." Towards the end of the 
fifteenth century, the different principalities forming 
this kingdom were still subject to the Bahmani 
sultans of Kalberga, or Ahsunabad, a dynasty founded 
by 'Ala-ed-Din Bahmani, a servant at the court of 
Muhammed Shah Toghlak, the Ghori Emperor of 
Hindustan, who about a.d. 1347 conquered all the 
Deccan and established his capital at Kalberga. But 
during the reign of Mahmud Shah II., (a.d. 1482 — 
1518,) the fourteenth of the Bahmani dynasty, the 
territories of this state were divided by the revolt of 
several of its subordinate governors : Fath'-Allah 
Tmad Khan, of Berar, appropriated that province ; 
Ahmed Nizam Shah, of Ahmednagar, followed his 
example ; Kasim Berid, the Shah's minister, made 
himself master of Bidar, or Ahmedabad ; and Yusuf 
'Adil Khan seized upon Bijapur. The latter per- 
sonage was the reputed son of Murad II. of Anatolia, 
who on the accession of his elder brother Muhammed, 
and while yet a child, was sent secretly into Persia 
by his mother to escape the law which ordained that 
only one son of the reigning family should be suffered 


to live. Brought up until sixteen years old among 
the disciples of the famous Sheikh Sufi, he subse- 
quently determined to try his fortune in Hindustan, 
became one of the body-guard in the royal house- 
hold at Kalberga, and eventually governor of Bijapur. 
Taking advantage of the dissensions which arose at 
that period in the Bahmani empire, and supported by 
a strong party in the state, he assumed independence 
with the title of 'Adil Shah. This event occurred in 
a.d. 1501, and as his reign lasted for ten years, he is 
undoubtedly the " King of the Deccan" referred to 
by Varthema in his description of Bijapur. 

After passing the maritime provinces of Bijapur, 
our narrative brings us into the territories of Bijaya- 
nagar, which at the period under review comprised 
several tributary dependencies on the Western coast 
extending from Bathacala, or Bathcal, near or iden- 
tical with the more modern town of Sedashevaghur,on 
the north, and Mangalore on the south. This Brah- 
minical kingdom of the Carnatic, having its capital 
at Bijayanagar on the Toongabudra, and which in 
more ancient times included the greater part of the 
peninsula, had been deprived of several of its pro- 
vinces by the encroachments of the Mussulman 
sovereigns of the Deccan ; nevertheless, at the be- 
ginning of the sixteenth century it was still a power- 
ful state, and exercised jurisdiction over a number of 
tributary rajahs on the Coromandel coast as far north 
as the Kistnah. At that time, the affairs of the 
kingdom were administered by Ramraj, whose ac- 
cession to the regency is thus narrated by Ferishta: — 


" The government of Beejanuggur had remained in 
one family, in uninterrupted succession, for seven 
hundred years ; when Seeroy dying was succeeded 
by his son, a minor, who did not live long after him, 
and left the throne to a younger brother. He also 
had not long gathered the flowers of enjoyment from 
the garden of royalty, before the cruel skies, proving 
their inconstancy, burned up the earth of his exist- 
ence with the blasting winds of annihilation. Being 
succeeded by an infant, only three months old, 
Heemraaje, one of the principal ministers of the 
family, celebrated for great wisdom and experience, 
became sole regent, and was cheerfully obeyed by all 
the vassals of the kingdom for forty years ; though, 
on the arrival of the young king at the age of man- 
hood, he had poisoned him, and put an infant of his 
family on the throne, in order to have a pretence for 
keeping the regency in his hands. Heemraaje at his 
death was succeeded in office by his son Ramraaje, 
who having married a daughter of Seeroy, by that 
alliance greatly added to his influence and power. 
By degrees, raising his own family to the highest 
ranks, and destroying the ancient nobility by various 
intrigues, he at length aspired to reign in his own 
name, and totally to extirpate the family of Seeroy." 1 
This Ramraaje, or RamraV), was the person whom Var- 
thema designates as " the king of Narsinga" in the 
account of his visit to Bijayanagar. 

Adjoining the littoral provinces of the latter, on 
the south, was the small independent rajahship of 

1 Scott's Fcrishta, vol. i. p. 262. 


Cannanore, beyond which began the kingdom of the 
Tamuri Rajah, commonly called the Zamorin, whose 
territories extended as far south as Fonani, and who 
appears to have exercised certain rights of suzerainty 
over the contiguous state of Cochin. The origin of 
the preeminence of the Zamorin, as collected from 
the early Portuguese historians, is as follows : — 
" About 600 years ago, Malabar was all united under 
one prince, whose name was Sarana Perimal. In his 
time, the Moors (Arabs) of Mekka discovered the 
Indies ; and coming to Koulan, [Quilon,] which was 
then the royal seat, the king was so taken with their 
religion, that not content with turning Mohammedan, 
he determined to go on a pilgrimage to Mekka, and 
there spend the remainder of his life. Before his 
departure, he divided his dominions among his kin- 
dred, reserving only twelve leagues of land lying near 
the sea. This, just before he embarked, he gave to 
his page, who was a relation, ordering it to be in- 
habited, in remembrance of his embarking there. 
He also gave him a sword and his cap as ensigns of 
state, and commanded all the other princes, among 
whom he had divided his territories, to acknowledge 
him as their Samorin or Emperor, except the kings 
of Koulan and Kananor ; but forbid all to coin 
money but this Emperor. After this, he embarked 
where Kalekut now stands: on which account the 
Moors took so great an affection to the place, that 
thenceforward they deserted the port of Koulan, and 
would never since lade goods at any but that of 
Kalekut, which by this means became the greatest 


mart in all India for all sorts of spices, drugs, precious 
stones, silks, calicoes, silver, gold, and other com- 
modities." 1 Varthema's account of the predominant 
authority exercised by the Zamorin on the Malabar 
coast, coincides generally with the foregoing, and 
with all other writers on the subject. 

Passing down the coast, our narrative brings us to 
Quilon, which it describes as the capital of an inde- 
pendent Hindu rajahship, comprising the maritime 
districts as far as Cape Comorin on the south, and 
extending beyond that cape to " Chayl " towards the 

Intermitting any further notice of the prevailing 
government on the Coromandel coast, which, as has 
already been stated, was ruled generally by deputies 
subject to the Rajah of Bijayanagar, the only Indian 
kingdom remaining to be noticed is that of Bengal. 
Incorporated towards the end of the twelfth century 
with the Ghori or Patan empire of Hindustan, 
Bengal was formed into a separate province under 
Kutb ed-Din, the second Emperor, and placed under 
the administration of Muhammed Bakhtiar Khilji, 
governor of Berar, who is considered as the first 
Sultan of the Purbi dynasty. According to some 
authors, Bengal threw off its allegiance to the Em- 
pire under Nasir ed-Din Baghra about the end of 
the fourteenth century ; whilst others postpone its 
sovereignty to the reign of Fakhr ed-Din Iskandar, 
who is said to have assumed independence a.d. 1840. 

The succession continued in the same family till 

1 Greene's Collection of Voyages and Travels, vol. i. p. 29. 


the province was subjugated by Akbar in 1573, and 
at the period of Varthema's visit the reigning Sultan 
was 'Ala ed-Din Husein Shah bin Seyyed Ashraf, 
who held his court at Lucknouti or Gour, situated on 
the left bank of the Ganges, about twenty-five miles 
below Rajemal. 

We must now return to our traveller whom we 
left at Cambay. His account of the Jains of Guzerat, 
and of the habits and customs of the Joghi ascetics, 
is as interesting as it is accurate, while his description 
of the person of the reigning sovereign supplies 
another remarkable instance of his great observation 
and veracity : — " The said Sultan has mustachios 
under his nose so long that he ties them over his 
head as a woman would tie her tresses." According 
to 'Ali Muhammed Khan, the historian of Guzerat, 
Sultan Mahmud received his surname of " Bigarrah," 
the name applied to a cow with twisted horns, 
because his mustachios were long and curled in a 
similar way. 

From Cambay the travellers sailed along the coast 
to Chaul in the" Northern Concan, and then to Goa, 
from whence they started to Bijapur, which Varthema 
styles, after the province, the " city of Decan," where 
they arrived in seven days. His description of this 
capital, — of its inhabitants, the splendour of the 
the Sultan's court, the magnificence of his palace, his 
military prowess, and the number of foreign merce- 
naries enrolled in his army, as also his wars with the 
neighbouring Rajah of Bijayanagar, — is fully cor- 
roborated by the history of the times as recorded by 


Ferishta, as well as by the monuments of its former 
extent and grandeur which still mark the site of the 
once famous city of Bijapiir. 

Returning to the coast, our travellers touched at 
Bathcal, Uncola, and Honahwar, in North Canara, — 
places of greater trade then than they are now, — from 
whence they proceeded to Cannanore, where Var- 
thema mentions the presence of the Portuguese, who 
had arrived three years prior to his visit : the first 
occasion being that of Cabral in 1501, and the next 
of any importance that of Vasco de Gama in 1503, 
when he obtained permission to establish a factory in 
the harbour. It is noticeable that our author appears 
to have eschewed all intercourse with the resident 
Europeans at this time, though Cannanore was 
eventually the place where he sought their protec- 
tion. He was evidently not yet tired of his adven- 
turous mode of life, and his assumed profession of 
Islam might have been suspected by his companion, 
and his future aim thereby thwarted, had he estab- 
lished amicable relations with the Portuguese. 

Fifteen days' journey inland from Cannanore 
brought the travellers to Bijayanagar, where they 
remained some time. After describing the city, its 
noble site, and the hunting grounds in the neighbour- 
hood, our author's narrative is taken up with a full 
account of the elephants maintained by the Rajah, 
detailing the various uses to which they were applied, 
their armour when employed in war, their surprising 
intelligence, and the manner of their propagation. 
He also gives the names of the different coins cur- 



rent in the country, with their relative value, on 
comparing which with a similar list supplied by the 
Arabian traveller 'Abd er-Razzak sixty years before, 
some changes appear to have been made in the 
interval in the silver and copper money; but the gold 
coinage had undergone no alteration, unless it was 
the withdrawal of the Vardha, or Double Pagoda, 
from circulation. 

Returning to Cannanore, the party proceeded along 
the coast to Tormapatani, Pandarani, and Capogatto. 
The first of these places is undoubtedly the " Dorma- 
patam " of Hamilton, situated near the Tellicherry 
river. The two last I have been unable to identify 
satisfactorily with the names of any existing towns ; 
but they are distinctly mentioned by Bakkeus as 
occurring between Cannanore and Calicut, and appear 
to have occupied the sites of Hamilton's " Burgara " 
and " Cottica," answering to the " Bergara " and 
" Cotta " of D'Anville, and the " Vadacurry " and 
" Kotacull " of Buchanan and Arrowsmith. Vasco 
de Gama landed at this Pandarani, (which must not 
be confounded with a place which then bore a similar 
name, to the south of Calicut, but now 7 called Ponani,) 
when he paid his first visit to the Zamorin. 

Our adventurers made a long stay at Calicut, and 
an entire book of Varthema's narrative is taken up 
with reminiscences of the memorable things observed 
there. Its topography, trade, agriculture, animal 
and vegetable productions, the court and state of the 
Zamorin, the administration of justice, the Brahmins, 
the religion of its inhabitants, their every-day worship 


and funeral services, their division into castes, the 
influence acquired there by the foreign and native 
Muhammedans, their mode of navigation and war- 
fare,— all these subjects are treated of in detail, 
and with more than ordinary care, forming together 
a most complete domestic history of what he calls 
" the place of the greatest dignity in India." Bearing 
in mind that all this matter is original, and that 
many of the particulars noted were communicated to 
Europe for the first time through our author's 
writings, one cannot but express surprise at the extent 
of his observation and the depth of his researches. 
What strikes us most is the generally clear insight 
which he obtained into some of the abstruse doctrines 
of Hinduism, and the correct account which he gives of 
the modeof succession to the sovereignty, the oligarchy 
of the Nairs, and the distinctions between the sub- 
ordinate castes down to the half savage Poiilias or 
Poulichees. Not less remarkable is his description of 
the extraordinary relations, sanctioned by usage if 
not by law, existing between the Nambouris, or 
highest caste, and the wife or wives of the Zamorin, 
which, coupled with the picture which he draws of 
the polyandry prevailing among the JSTairs, reveals a 
state of social depravity as revolting as it is lament- 
ably true. 

Through what medium did Varthema acquire all 
this information, so diffuse in detail and yet so 
authentic 1 He had no books of reference, and his 
prejudiced Mussulman companions alone would un- 
doubtedly have led him into frequent misrepresenta- 




tioiis regarding the Kafirs. The only inference we 
can draw is, that he did not confine his inquiries to 
them, but associated familiarly with the Hindus also, 
and, being endowed with uncommon perspicacity, 
was enabled to separate the true from the false, and 
to present us with a narrative almost unrivalled for 
originality of investigation and accuracy of statement 
among the published travels of his age. Moreover, 
how did he compile his book ? Did he keep a jour- 
nal, noting down day by day his acquired experience, 
or did he trust to recollection alone ? If the latter, 
the retentiveness of his memory would not be the 
least qualification for the task which he accomplished 
with such surprising exactness. 

The suspension of trade at Calicut, owing to the 
hostile proceedings of the Portuguese on the coast, 
was a serious drawback to Cogiazenor's mercantile 
speculations, apparently causing him and Varthema 
to leave the place sooner than they had otherwise 
intended. In describing their onward progress, the 
latter says : " We departed and took our road by a 
river, which is the most beautiful I ever saw, and 
arrived at a city called Cacolon, distant from Calicut 
fifty leagues." This river was unquestionably what 
is known to sailors as the " Backwater of Cochin," 
formed by the inland confluence of different streams 
with the numerous estuaries along the coast, by 
which, especially during the rainy monsoon, naviga- 
tion is practicable in a line parallel with the shore. 
It seems very likely that the journey was continued 
by the same mode of conveyance as far as Quilon, 


for Varthema tells us, in a subsequent part of his 
narrative, that they went from that place to Calicut 
by this same " river" on their return from the Indian 
Archipelago. " Cacolon," the modern Kayan Kulam, 
and the Coilcoiloan of Hamilton, is described by the 
latter, in his time (1688 — 1723) as " a little princi- 
pality contiguous to Porkah," which our author calls 
" the island of Porcai," probably from its being almost 
insulated by the " Backwater of Cochin." At Kayan 
Kulam he fell in with the " Christians of St. Thomas," 
or Nestorians, the ancestors of the native Christian 
community still existing in Malabar, and notices 
briefly some of their ritual differences from the 
Church of Rome. Quilon, the town next gained, 
and which Varthema calls " Colon," he describes as 
fertile in fruits but not in grain, and speaks of the 
king as being very powerful, and a great friend of 
the Portuguese, which is true, for they had obtained 
permission to settle a factory there two years prior to 
his visit. 

Leaving Quilon, our travellers rounded Cape Co- 
morin, and proceeded in a north-easterly direction to 
" Chayl," noticing by the way the pearl-fishery near 
Tuticorin. Chayl, I take to represent the " Calligi- 
cura" of Pliny, and the " Kolkhi" of the author of 
the Periplus, and appears to have been situated near 
the promontory forming one side of the Pamban 
Passage. 1 Their next voyage was to the city of 

1 I have identified it with Barbosa's " Cael," which he locates 
on the mainland " after passing the province of Quilicare [Killi- 
karai] towards the north-east," and also with Hamilton's " Coil," 
(see note I, on p. 184); but I do not find the name in that neigh- 


" Cioromandel," " distant from Colon seven days' 
journey by sea, more or less, according to the wind," 
and subject to the Rajah of Bijayanagar. From 
the indications given, I presume this to be Nega- 
patam, though, if right in the conjecture, it was a 
place of greater commercial importance then than 
it is now. Departing thence, and passing a gulf 
where there were many rocks and shoals, (the Palk 
Strait,) they reached Ceylon, and from Varthema's 
description of the locality as being situated near a 
large river, surrounded by cinnamon-plantations, and 
in the neighbourhood of high mountains, I infer that 
they landed at Colombo. Though their stay here 
was short, owing to some jealousy of Cogiazenor on 
the part of a resident Arab merchant, our author 
managed to collect a considerable amount of general 
information respecting the island. He mentions the 
intestine wars which prevailed between four rival 
kings, — a fact corroborated by Sir J. E. Tennent and 
other historians ; the various gems found there ; the 
cultivation of cinnamon ; Adam's Peak, and the tra- 
dition associated with it among Mussulmans ; the 
dress of the people, their ignorance of fire-arms, and 
the weapons in use among them, with which, how- 
ever, " they did not kill each other overmuch, because 
they are cowardly fellows." 

Three days' sail from Ceylon brought our party 

bourhood in any of the modern maps. Colonel Yule identifies 
Burbosa's Cael with a Coilpatam near the Tinnevelly river; but I 
think that position is too far south to correspond with Varthema's 
" Chayl." tSce Friar Jordanus, p. 40. 


to " Paleachet," the modern Pulicat, about twenty- 
two miles north of Madras, then subject to the Nar- 
singa, or Rajah of Bijayanagar. The neighbouring 
district is represented as abounding in grain, and the 
port as largely frequented by " Moorish" merchants. 
Varthema also mentions that " the country was at 
fierce war w 7 ith the king of Tarnasseri," — a statement 
which I have been utterly unable either to question 
or to confirm for want of any historical records, known 
to me, of any such international hostile relations 
between the rulers on the Coromandel coast and 
those of the Burmese peninsula. 

Before accompanying our travellers from the shores 
of Hindustan, I venture to submit a few brief obser- 
vations on the narrative under review, as far as it 
treats of that continent. 

Notwithstanding the civil wars which prevailed 
at the time, the external commerce of the country, 
except in the single instance attributed to the pro- 
ceedings of the Portuguese fleet off Calicut, appears 
to have been carried on without interruption, and to 
have been subject to no restrictions beyond the levy 
of a fixed customs duty at the place of entry or em- 
barkation. Moreover, foreign merchants residing at 
the seaports, or periodically visiting them, seem to 
have enjoyed perfect immunity in person and property, 
to have been under the special protection of the local 
authorities, and were withal wholly free in the exer- 
cise of their religion. The principal seaports on the 
western side were Cambay and Calicut; on the Coro- 
mandel coast, Negapatam, Pulicat, and Masulipatam; 


and, farther cast, Banghella near the eastern month 
of the Ganges, and Satgong on the Hooghly ; but 
between these were numerous subordinate depots, 
occupied originally on account of their harbours, and 
as affording more direct communication with different 
points in the interior, which were much frequented not 
only by coasting craft, but by vessels engaged in the 
foreign trade. Many of these ports, some of which 
were selected for factories by the early European 
traders to India, have been abandoned, and even the 
names of a few of those mentioned by Varthema have 
disappeared from the modern maps. One cause of this 
is doubtless assignable to a considerable share of the 
external commerce, in which a great many native 
boats were engaged, having been diverted from the 
lied Sea and Persian Gulf to the route via the Cape 
of Good Hope. The larger vessels employed in that 
transport required deeper anchorage, and sought the 
most eligible harbours, whither the trade followed 
them ; whilst the gradual absorption of the native 
states by the British Government tended still further 
to promote commercial centralization. That the 
trade of the country has progressively increased is 
certain ; nevertheless, it may fairly be questioned 
whether it would not have increased in a higher 
ratio had good roads been more generally substituted 
for those numerous outlets on the coast which, by 
the combined operation of the causes aforesaid, were 
eventually disused and forsaken. This conjectural 
inference is confirmed by the fact, that notwith- 
standing the efforts which have been made of late 


years to facilitate inland intercommunication, the 
desirableness of adding to the existing harbours has 
originated several schemes for improving several of 
the old ports and for creating new ones. 

Another inference deducible from our narrative is 
the uniform prosperity which prevailed among the 
inhabitants. Excepting the case of the outcast 
Poulias of Malabar, the different classes of the popu- 
lation appear to have been in a thriving condition, 
and we read of no systematic oppression on the part 
of their rulers. These, and the higher ranks of the 
community, are represented as being very opulent; 
but their riches served to support large establish- 
ments of retainers, and being wholly expended in 
the country contributed to promote the general 
well-being of the people. It may fairly be doubted, 
indeed, whether in this respect the natives of India, 
on the whole, have benefited by their subjection to 
British rule. Larger fortunes are perhaps amassed 
by private individuals, but the domestic changes 
which a different system of government has intro- 
duced have closed many of the outlets through 
which the wealth of the few found its way among 
the many ; besides which, no insignificant portion of 
the incomes realized in the country is now taken out 
of it and disposed of elsewhere. In consequence of 
this altered state of things, property is becoming 
more unequally distributed, and the native popula- 
tion is gradually assimilating itself to the European 
model. It remains for the future to decide whether 
the results in the East will correspond with the 
workings of the social organism of the West. 


Varthema's reiterated encomium on the impartial 
administration of justice, wherein he corroborates the 
testimony of ancient Greek and Roman authors, 
reveals another striking feature in the Indian polity 
at this period. That no declension, in that respect, 
has resulted from the supersession of the old native 
tribunals by British legislation cannot be doubted ; 
nevertheless, the two systems are frequently con- 
trasted by the people to the decided disparagement 
of the latter. The chief defect complained of, how- 
ever, is the comparative tardiness of our law ; for 
under the oriental mode of procedure, punishment 
follows hard on the offence, and cases are disposed of 
without the intervention of those intricate forms and 
delays, and without the heavy fees, which seem in- 
separable from a British law court. There are, un- 
questionably, many among the better informed natives 
who appreciate the even and solid justice ultimately 
aimed at and dispensed ; but the masses revert with 
regret to the good old days when awards were 
attainable in much less time, and at far less cost, 
than at present. ' This subject reminds me of a wealthy 
Arab pearl merchant from the Persian Gulf, whom 
I met at Maskat upwards of two years ago, and who 
occasionally formed one of a party of evening visitors 
whose opinions I frequently endeavoured to elicit on 
points connected with British policy in the East. 
The theme under discussion was the administration 
of justice in India, in the course of which the Arab 
merchant, who was well acquainted with Bombay, 
spoke as follows, as nearly as I can remember his 


words: — "There can be no doubt that the government 
of the English is the best in the world, and no 
Eastern government can be compared to it. Their 
law too is excellent, and their judges and magistrates 
incorruptible ; still, there are serious drawbacks in 
the way of obtaining justice. Knowing this by 
experience, I long forbore pressing a case against a 
man who was indebted to me to a large amount ; but 
a Parsee acquaintance eventually persuaded me to put 
myself into the hands of an English lawyer who, he 
was sure, would get my claim settled promptly and 
economically, and moreover gave me a note of intro- 
duction to his legal adviser. Thanking him for his 
courtesy, but still wary of the machinery of the law, 
I took the note to a Banyan and begged him to read 
it for me. It contained this sentence : — ' My dear 

, I send you a good fat cow ; milk him well.' 

I need not tell you that my suspicions were con- 
firmed, and that I preferred a voluntary compromise 
with my debtor, to an involuntary milking at the 
hands of the English advocate." The anecdote, 
whether true or fabricated, is illustrative of a very 
common notion among the natives respecting the 
obstacles in the way of securing prompt justice from 
a British court of law in India. 

It is high time to revert to our travellers, but we 
must leave them a little longer in the house of the 
" Moorish " merchant at Pulicat, (who was delighted 
with the corals and saffron, figured-velvet and knives, 
which they had brought for sale,) while we take a 
cursory glance at the political condition of the 
countries whither they subsequently proceeded. 



The principal monarchies in the great Burmese 
peninsula at this period were those of Pegu and 
Siam. The capital of the former was the city of the 
same name, and of the latter, Yiithya, or Odia, 
situated on the river Menam above the modern 
capital of Bangkok. The kingdom of Pegu appears 
to have comprised the sea-coast as far as the fifteenth 
degree of south latitude, and that of Siam the whole 
of the Malayan peninsula, the maritime districts of 
which were divided into three provinces, viz., Tenas- 
serim, Ligor, and Queda, ruled by semi-independent 
viceroys, of whom the chief was the viceroy of 
Tenasserim. It would seem, however, that Malacca, 
though subject to Siam, formed a separate jurisdic- 
tion under a Muhammedan deputy, whereas the 
governors of all the other provinces, like the mass of 
the people, were Buddhists. There were frequent 
wars at this time between Pegu and Siam, and 
between Pegu and the inland states of Ava and 
Toungoo, which before the end of the sixteenth 
century considerably modified the territories of the 
rival sovereigns. 

The island of Sumatra was divided into several 
kingdoms, of which the principal were those of Achin 
and Pedir, though it is not improbable that the 
latter was tributary to the former. Most of the in- 
land sovereigns professed Hinduism, and in Var- 
thema's time the king of Pedir was a " Pagan ;" but 
there were many " Moors " resident on the eastern 
coast, and Achin had embraced Islamism as early, at 
least, as the fourteenth century. 


Java, also, was ruled by a number of petty Hindu 
kings, who were for the most part subject to a 
paramount sovereign, called " Pala-Udora " by Bar- 
bosa, who resided in the interior. According to the 
same authority, this personage was a " Pagan ;" but 
Crawfurd assigns a.d. 1478 as the date when the 
principal Hindu state was overthrown by the Muham- 
medans. There were many " Moors " settled at the 
different seaports, and about this period Islamism 
appears to have been making rapid progress among 
the inhabitants of the maritime provinces. 

Of the places visited by our travellers to the east- 
ward of Java, there is but little to be remarked under 
this head. According to Varthema, the inhabitants 
of the Banda or Nutmeg Islands were "Pagans, who 
had no king, nor even a governor ; " Barbosa makes 
them Moors and Pagans, and Pigafetta, Moors only; 
to which De Barros adds, that " they had neither 
king nor lord, and all their government depended on 
the advice of their elders." The people of the 
Moluccas were Pagans and Muhammeclans, but most 
of the " kings " were of the latter denomination. 
Barbosa describes one of these sovereigns, however, 
as being " nearly a Pagan ; " from which we may 
infer that the population generally, as regards re- 
ligion, were in a state of transition between heathen- 
ism and Islam. Of the prevailing government in 
Borneo, we know scarcely anything, beyond the fact 
that it comprised a number of petty independent 
states, which were chiefly subject to heathen rulers. 
The inhabitants of the place where Varthema landed 


were Pagans, as were those of the island generally ; 
but Crawfurd adduces evidence to prove that many of 
the Malay and Javanese settlers had embraced Islam- 
ism long prior to this period. 

Rejoining our travellers, we shall now proceed to 
accompany them in their subsequent wanderings. 
From Pulicat, they sailed to " Tarnassari," which 1 
have found no difficulty in identifying with Tenas- 
serim, although Dr. Vincent was disposed to locate it 
either at Masulipatam, or between that place and 
the Ganges. Varthema's description of this city, — 
its situation on the southern bank of a large river, 
forming a good port; the military power of the king, 
who maintained a standing army of 100,000 men, 
whose weapons were bows and lances, swords and 
shields, some of the latter made of tortoise-shell ; 
the animal and vegetable productions of the country; 
the domestic habits of the people generally ; ] the 

1 Varthema describes the cocks and hens at Tenasserim (p. 200) 
as the largest he ever saw ; and among the domestic usages of the 
people, he speaks of their eating out of " some very beautiful 
vessels of wood." (p. 201.) Colonel Yule informs me that the big 
cocks and hens, and very handsome vessels of lackered wood, are 
notable features in Burmah at the present day. He also suggests 
whether the word " Mirzel," which he has found applied to an 
Indian dye in a work written by a Dutch author twelve hundred 
years ago, and which seems to indicate the brazil-wood, one of the 
products of Tenasserim, may not have originated the Italian 
" verzino," which Varthema uses to describe the dye, but the 
etymology of which I have failed to discover. (See note on p. 
205.) The quotation with which he has kindiy supplied me is as 
follows : — " Tinctura quaxlam, Mirzel illis dicta, qua panni ele- 
gantissimo colore jecorario sive castaneo inficiuntur." Whereon he 
remarks : " Now, has the illis dicta any foundation ? It might 


peculiar dress of the Brahmins, or, more correctly, 
Buddhist priests ; the amusement of cock-fighting ; 
the concremation of the dead bodies of the kings and 
principal Buddhists, and the prevailing practice of 
Salt, or widow-burning, with their attendant rites ; — 
all these subjects are treated of in detail, and with an 
accuracy which is amply confirmed by the testimony 
of subsequent writers. Among the birds enumerated 
by our author, there is one " much larger than an 
eagle," with a yellow and red beak, " a thing very 
beautiful to behold," the upper mandible of whicli 
was made into sword-hilts. Professor Owen con- 
siders that this parti-coloured bill applies to the 
Buceros galeatus, of which a jewelled bowl, belong- 
ing to the crown jewels of the Ottoman Sultan, is 
formed ; but which tradition had believed to have 
been made from the beak of the fabulous Phoenix. 

Varthema devotes a whole chapter to the descrip- 
tion of an extraordinary usage among the people of 
Tenasserim, connected with their marriages, in which 
the concurrence of foreigners was importunately so- 
licited, and illustrates it by the personal experience 
of his party. Extravagant and obscene as the custom 
is, its prevalence in the Burmese provinces is con- 
firmed by writers of a later date, and evidence is not 
wanting of its existence up to a very recent period. 

help us to the origin of the words brazil and verzino. Drury or 
Ainslie would give the synonymes." I have searched through 
both writers in vain for an Indian name anything approaching that 
of Mirzel either in form or sound, and am therefore inclined to 
think that it is nothing more than a native corruption of Verzino. 


A voyage of eleven days from Tenasserim brought 
our travellers to the " city of Banghella." In my 
annotations on the text (p. 210,) I have inferred 
that this place was the ancient Gour on the Ganges ; 
but the following judicious remarks, which Colonel 
Yule has been good enough to transmit to me, lead 
me to doubt the accuracy of that identification. He 
observes : — " I think it is to be deduced from what 
Varthema says, that the ' city of Banghella ' was a 
seaport, and therefore could not be Gour. In an old 
Dutch Latin geography book, which I have chanced 
on in the salle of this hotel, (Hotel Royal, Genoa,) 
with wonderfully good maps, by J. and C. Blaen, 
(no title ; date about 16-40, as Charles I. is spoken 
of as reigning,) I find Bengala put down as a town 
close and opposite to Chatigam (Chittagong.) I don't 
lay much stress on this ; but I suspect it was either 
Chittagong, or Satgong on the Hoogly, which was 
the great port one hundred years later, and also 
in Ibn Batuta's time." By Satgong I presume the 
Colonel indicates Ibn Batuta's SddMwdn, which the 
latter describes as " the first town he entered," [in 
Bengal,] and as being " large and situated on the 
sea-shore." 1 But the following quotation from Pata- 
vino, whose work was published in 1597, seems to 
upset my friend's deduction as well as my own ; for 
it also describes Bengala as a town distinct from either 
Gour, or Chittagong, or Satgong. He writes: — 
" GOVRO vrbs Regia habitatio fuit, et BENGALA 
urbs qua? regioni nomen dat, inter vniversa? India? 

1 Lee's Translation, p. 194. 


praeclarissimas connumeratur. Pi-aster has iuxta maris 
ripam ad ostia Chaberis insignia emporia Catigan et 
Satigan iacent, quae centum propemodum leucis ab 
invicem distant." 1 I find, moreover, on further investi- 
gation, that Rennell likewise recognizes Satgong and 
Banghella as distinct towns, and gives some clue to- 
wards determining the position of the latter. The 
former he describes as follows : — " Satgong or Sata- 
gong, now an inconsiderable village on a small creek 
of the Hoogly river, about four miles to the north- 
west of Hoogly, was, in 1566, and probably later, a 
large commercial city, in which the European traders 
had their factories in Bengal. At that time, Satgong 
river was capable of bearing small vessels ; and I 
suspect, that its then course, after passing Satgong, 
was by way of Adaumpour, Omptah, and Tamlook ; 
and that the river called the Old Ganges was a part of 
its course, and received that name while the circum- 
stance of the change was fresh in the memory of the 
people. The appearance of the country between Sat- 
gong and Tamlook countenances such an opinion." 
Of the other place, which seems to be Varthema's 
Banghella, he says : " In some ancient maps, and 
books of travel, we meet with a city named Bangella ; 
but no traces of such a place now exist. It is de- 
scribed as being near the eastern mouth of the 
Ganges, 2 and I conceive that the site of it has been 

1 Geoff. Univ. turn Vet. turn Nova absolutissimum opus, p. 258. 

2 It is so placed in several of the old maps belonging to the 
British Museum. For some further notes on this subject, the 
reader is referred to the Postscript at the end of this Introduction. 



carried away by the river, as in my remembrance a 
vast tract of land has disappeared thereabouts. Ben- 
galla appears to have been in existence during the 
early part of the last century." 1 

To return from this digression : Varthema repre- 
sents Banghella as one of the finest cities he had 
hitherto seen. The Sultan was a Muhammedan, and 
had a standing army of 20,000 men. Here they 
found the richest merchants they had ever met ; 
the principal exports were cotton and silk stuffs, 
which were woven by men and not by women ; the 
country abounded in grain of every kind, sugar, 
ginger, and cotton, and was, withal, the best place 
in the world to live in. In this latter particular, 
our author's statement is corroborated by the ex- 
perience of Ibn Batuta nearly two centuries before, 
who says: " I never saw a country in which 
provisions were so cheap. I there saw one of the 
religious of the West, who told me that he had 
bought provisions for himself and family for a whole 
year with eight dirhems," 2 or about twenty-four 
shillings of our money ! 

At Banghella our adventurers met two Christians 
from the city of Samau in Cathay, a place which I 
was unable to identify when writing the notes, but 
for which I have since discovered, what appears to 
me, a very probable representative in one of the 
letters of Fra Odorico (a.d. 1318), who, in his ac- 
count of " Catay," speaks of Christians inhabiting that 

1 Memoir of a Map of Hindooslan, p. 57. 
2 Lee's Translation, p. 194. 


province in considerable numbers, and mentions that 
of the 4,009 doctors who attended on the. " Gran 
Cane," eight were Christians. He then adds : — 
" During the winter, this lord resides at Cabalec, 
[Kanbalii=Pekin,] but at the beginning of summer 
he leaves it to take up his abode in a city called 
Sanay, situated towards the north, a very cold lo- 
cality and habitation, and in removing from the one 
place to the other, he goes in wonderful state.' 1 
This quotation is from the narrative which Fra 
Guglielmodi Solona professes to have taken down from 
Fra Odorico's own lips, at Padua, in the year 1330. 
In the other account, which is also preserved by 
Ramusio, and which appears to have been written 
by the missionary Friar himself, this summer-palace 
of the Great Khan is called Sandojj ; but the names 
of the same places are so differently spelt in the two 
exemplars as frequently to defy identification without 
the aid of the accompanying narrative. In this in- 
stance, there can be no doubt that Sanay and Sandoy 
represent one and the same locality ; and although it 
is beyond me to decide which is the more correct or- 
thography, I deem it tolerably certain that the place 
so called was identical with Varthema's " city of 

There is so much interesting matter in these early 
travels of Fra Odorico, that it is to be hoped some 
competent hand will prepare an annotated transla- 
tion of them for the Hakluyt Society. A striking- 
feature in the two narratives, which evidently de- 

1 Ramusio, vol. ii. p. 251. 



scribe the same journey, is that one of them, viz., that 
written by Fra Guglielmo, contains an account of 
several places on the western coast of India between 
Thana (Tanna) and Cape Comorin, including Alan- 
drina (Fandaraina=Pandarani 1) and Mebor (Mala- 
bar,) and also of S'umoltra (Sumatra?) and Iana (pro- 
bably for Iatia=Ja\3,1) as far &sllicunera,a, large island 
in the ocean towards the south about 2,000 miles in 
circuit, from whence the traveller proceeds to Silam, 
(Ceylon,) then to Dadin, an island one day distant, and 
next, after a navigation of many days, to Manzi on the 
frontiers of China ; whereas, in the other exemplar, 
most of these intermediate places are omitted, and 
the writer goes direct from Tana (Tanna) to Nicoverra, 
and then to Mangi by Diddi. Whencethis discrepancy 1 
Was the additional matter an interpolation of a 
later date? The subject deserves a thorough investi- 

The two Sarnau Christians whom our travellers 
encountered at Banghella had evidently come to that 
part of India for trading purposes, and as Varthema 
describes them as writing from right to left, they 
were probably Nestorians. On seeing the branches 
of coral which Cogiazenor had for sale, they advised 
him to accompany them to Pegu, as being the most 
eligible market for such articles ; and the party ac- 
cordingly set off together on a voyage of " about one 
thousand miles," 1 during which they " passed a gulf 

1 It is somewhat strange that Varthema should make the dis- 
tance between his Banghella and Pegu three hundred miles more 
than he interposes between Tenasserim and Banghella. See pp. 
213, 214. 


towards the south," (Martaban,) and in due time 
reached their destination. 

Varthema correctly describes the Pegu of his day 
as a great city, situated to the west of a beautiful 
river, containing " good houses and palaces built of 
stone, with lime," and as beiug enclosed within a 
wall. The old town has long since disappeared, but 
Symes tells us that its extent may still be traced by 
the remains of the ditch which surrounded it, and 
that the bricks from its ruins now pave the streets of 
the new town. Among the vegetable productions of 
the kingdom, its splendid timber-trees and enormous 
bamboos, and, among the animals, the abundance of 
civet-cats, are particularly noticed. The chief mer- 
chandize of the place was in jewels, and the mines of 
Capellan, which Tavernier a century and a half later 
locates in a mountain twelve days' journey from 
Sirian, are mentioned as the great source of rubies. 

In his account of the Peguese army, our author 
makes the singular statement that it contained one 
thousand Christians like those found in Sarnau, mean- 
ing thereby Nestorians. As there is not the slightest 
evidence to prove that so large a number of native 
Christians ever existed in Pegu, I have been led to 
suppose that Varthema had heard that many of the 
soldiers, like the Buddhists in general, believed in a 
trinity, or, as Yule explains it in commenting on a 
similar remark made by Nicolo de' Conti, " the Triad 
of Buddha, Dharma, and Sanga" and incontinently 
christianized them. The same writer, in another 
place, quotes the old Geographer in Ramusio as iden- 


tifying the Hindu Triad with the Christian doctrine 
in personal detail : — " All the country of Malabar 
believes in the Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy 
Spirit, and this, beginning at Cambay, and ending 
at Bengal." 1 

Finding that the King was absent on an expedition 
against the King of Ava, our party hired " a ship, 
made all of one piece," and set forth in search of 
him, their course being, as may be presumed, down 
the river of Pegu and then up the Irawaddy. Not 
being able to reach Ava on account of the war, they 
retraced their steps, and on the return of the King 
five days after were admitted to an audience of His 
Majesty, who was so bedizened with jewels that, if 
seen by night, " he appears to be a sun." The 
Christians, who acted as interpreters on the occasion, 
apprised him of the merchandize which Cogiazenor 
had brought for sale ; but that business was deferred 
to the day after the next, " because the next day the 
King had to sacrifice to the devil for the victory 
which he had gained" over his A van enemies. The 
account which Varthema gives of the subsequent 
interview reveals the craft of the Persian in placing 
his corals at the King's disposal for the mere honour 
of having them accepted by royalty. The artifice 
was eminently successful ; for although the King 
was unable to pay in ready cash, owing to the heavy 
expenditure occasioned by two years' war, he gave 
the wily merchant a handful of rubies for his corals, 
and presented the Christians with two rubies each. 

1 Friar Jordanus, p. 24, note. 


" Wherefore," remarks our author, " he may be con- 
sidered the most liberal King in the world ; " adding 
for our information that his principal revenue was 
derived from the lac and sandal-wood, brazil-wood 
and cotton, which the country produced in great 
abundance. Five days after, news arrived that the 
King of Ava was marching to attack the King of 
Pegu, and as the latter left the city with a large 
army to encounter him, our party embarked on board 
a ship and in eight days reached Malacca. 

Near this place was a river twenty-five miles wide, 
called " Gaza." This was undoubtedly the Straits of 
Malacca, which are about that width between the 
mainland and the opposite island of Rupat, and the 
name is most probably a contraction of Bogluu, the 
common Arabic designation of a strait. As Var- 
tliema describes their course from Pegu as being 
" towards the west," he had evidently a very incor- 
rect idea of the geography of the peninsula. The 
country about Malacca was not very fertile, but it 
abounded in fruits and different kinds of birds and 
animals, and the commerce carried on at the port 
was very extensive, for " more ships arrived there 
than at any other place in the world." The natives 
generally were a bad race, and foreign merchants 
slept on board their ships to avoid assassination. 
Distinct from the more civilized community of the 
place, who dressed after the manner of Cairo, there 
was another class who set the local authorities at de- 
fiance, and who did not care to reside on land be- 
cause they were " men of the sea." I have pointed 


out in my annotations on the text how strikingly 
this part of Varthema's narrative is corroborated 
by the learned researches of Mr. Crawfurd. " Men 
of the Sea" is the literal translation of the Malay 
Orang-laut, or sea-gipsies, who are to be found so- 
journing from Sumatra to the Moluccas. The only 
habitations of this people are their boats, and they 
live exclusively by the produce of the sea, or by the 
robberies which they commit on it. 

The next place to which our party proceeded was 
Pider in the island of Sumatra, which Varthema 
locates about eighty leagues from the mainland, — a 
correct estimate if measured from the coast directly 
opposite, but nearly twice that distance from Malacca. 
After portraying the physical features of the people, 
and remarking that their religion and customs, that 
of Saft included, were like those of Tenasserim, Var- 
thema describes the currency as consisting of gold, 
silver, and tin coins, " all stamped, having a devil 
[idol] on one side, and something resembling a cha- 
riot drawn by elephants on the other." This state- 
ment is somewhat in opposition to Mr. Crawfurd, who 
says that the natives of the Archipelago generally had 
no coined money prior to the arrival of the Eu- 
ropeans ; but this conclusion is modified by the ex- 
ception of Java, and more especially of A chin, where 
he states that a gold coin existed inscribed with 
Arabic characters, bearing the names of the sove- 
reigns under whom it w r as struck, from which it may 
be inferred that the date of coinage was subsequent 
to the establishment of Islamism in that province. 


Still, as Ibn Batiita found a Muhammedan sovereign 
reigning at Sumatra in the fourteenth century, and 
as Achin was most likely the place which he touched 
at in that island, there is nothing incredible in Var- 
thema's account of the different coins current at 
Pedir in his time ; for Pedir is the next adjoining 
province to Achin, and was probably at some period 
tributary to that state. It is possible, however, that 
some of these coins were imported in the course of 
trade with the continent of India, for Varthema de- 
scribes one street of Pedir as occupied by five hun- 
dred money-changers, and associates the remark with 
the great number of foreign merchants who carried 
on an extensive traffic at the place. As a colony of 
Hindus still exists at Malacca, whose profession it is to 
try gold by the touch and to refine it, it is not unlikely 
that the money-changers at Pedir were also natives of 
India ; and, if so, the importation of Indian money is 
readily accounted for. Perhaps some one learned in 
oriental numismata may succeed, where I have failed, 
in identifying the devices on Varthema's stamped 
money of Pedir with some of the old Hindu coins. 

In his enumeration of the natural productions of 
Sumatra, our author includes most of those peculiar 
to the island, such as pepper, specifying the long 
pepper, of which he gives a detailed description ; 
benzoin ; different qualities of sandal-wood, the eagle- 
wood of commerce ; and silk, both domestic and 
wild. With regard to the latter article, Crawfurd 
says, in commenting on a similar statement made by 
De Barros, that it is probably an error, as he is not 


aware of any kind of silk being produced in the 
islands of the Archipelago ; and as I can suggest no- 
thing to modify this wide discrepancy, I must just 
leave it as it is, and rejoin our travellers in their on- 
ward journey. 1 

A desire on the part of Cogiazenor to see the place 
where the nutmegs and cloves were produced, in- 
duced him and Varthema to put themselves under 
the guidance of their two Christian companions, who 
were now anxious to return to their own country, 
but who eventually consented to accompany them, 
on hearing that Varthema had been a Christian, and 
had seen Jerusalem, where he had been purchased as 
a slave, and brought up as a Mussulman. This 
fabricated story so delighted the simple Sarnau couple, 
that they endeavoured to persuade Varthema to go 
with them to China, promising that he should be 
made very rich there, and be allowed the free ex- 
ercise of his adopted faith. Cogiazenor objected to 
the latter arrangement, informing them that his 
companion was the destined husband of his bright- 
eyed niece " Samis," which finally settled the matter. 
Smaller boats being required for the projected trip, 

1 Varthema also mentions that many of the houses in Sumatra 
were covered with shells of sea turtles, — a remark which I have 
been able to illustrate by the researches of Mr. II. H. Major (see 
note 1, on p. 240). But the colossal tortoise of Diodorus Siculus, 
and even the Colossochelys Atlas of the British Museum, is out- 
done by one described by Fra Odorico in a country which he calls 
" Zapa," somewhere in the Indian Archipelago. He says : 
" And in this place I also saw a turtle of wonderful size like the 
cuba or trullo [the square tower] of [the church of] Saint An- 
thony at Padua"! Ramusio, vol. ii. p. 248. 


wherein there were no dangers to be apprehended 
from pirates, though the Christians could not promise 
them immunity from the chances of the sea, two 
sampans, ready manned, were bought by the Persian 
for 400 pardai, (about £280,) and after taking on 
board a stock of provisions, including the best fruits 
which Varthema had ever tasted, the party sailed from 
the island of Sumatra. 

We are now to follow our adventurers on a route 
never before traversed by Europeans, or, more safely, 
of which no European before him has left any record. 1 
" About twenty islands " were passed during the 
voyage, leading us to infer that they steered along 
the coast of Java, and in fifteen days they arrived at 
" Bandan," one of the Banda or Nutmeg group. 
The inhabitants are represented as being " like 
beasts : " they had no ruler, neither was any law 
necessary, " because the people were so stupid, that 
if they wished to do evil they would not know how 
to accomplish it. 1 ' Nevertheless, they must have 
been within the area of the trade at that period, 
and in frequent contact with a superior civilization, 

1 As far as I can recollect, Marco Polo and Fra Odorico are the 
only Europeans, prior to our author, who have given us a personal 
account of any of the countries to the east of the Malayan peninsula, 
yet neither of them travelled to the eastward of Borneo. Never- 
theless, it is by no means improbable that stray foreigners from 
the West may have been there long before Varthema. Until very 
lately, I believed with the rest of the world that Burton was the 
first European who visited Hurrur ; but Padre Sapeto affirms that 
he himself was there some years before Burton, and that several 
other Europeans had resided at the place half a century antecedent 
to his time. 


for " money circulated there as at Calicut." The 
only production of the island was the nutmeg, which 
grew spontaneously, and was common property, each 
person gathering as much as he chose. The tree, 
nut, and mace, are described with Varthema's usual 
accuracy, and he states that the market price of 
twenty-six pounds of nutmegs was half a carlino, or 
about three pence of our currency. 

Leaving Banclan, the next place gained was 
" Monoch," 1 a distorted form of 3Ialuka, the proper 
collective name of the Moluccas, which they reached 
in twelve days. Mr. Crawfurd remarks that Var- 
thema " seems to consider the Moluccas as one island, 
including probably under this name the great island 
of Gilolo." 2 This is hardly so ; for our author 
mentions expressly "other neighbouring islands where 
cloves grow," but says " they are small and unin- 
habited." It is impossible to decide with certainty 
which of the islands the party landed at, but as it is 
described as being " much smaller than Bandan," I 
have conjectured that it was either Ternate or Tidor. 
The inhabitants are represented as being worse than 
those of Bandan, but lived much in the same style. 
The only object of interest here was the cloves, — an 
object which, as Mr. Crawfurd correctly says, " mainly 
prompted the European nations of the fifteenth cen- 
tury to the discovery of the New World." Varthema 
gives a very fair account of the clove tree, the soil in 

1 I perceive that, by an oversight, I have written " JITc/luck" 
for Monoch in the 23rd line of the note on p. 247. 

2 Descriptive Dictionary of the Indian Islands, etc., p. 64. 


which it flourished, and the simple manner of gather- 
ing the spice. The price of the cloves was double 
that of the nutmeg, but they were sold by measure 
" as the people did not understand weights." He 
says the country was very low, which is only true of 
the latitude of the Moluccas; and that was evidently 
our author's meaning, for he immediately subjoins : 
" and the north star is not seen from it." 

After a short stay at " Monoch," the Christians 
proposed to conduct our travellers to " the largest 
island in the world;" for so they designated Java, 
proving how ignorant they were of its relative size. 
But they must first go to " Bornei," or Borneo, and 
procure a large ship there, " because the sea is more 
rough." As this precaution would have been un- 
called for had the party taken the same route as that 
by which they had come, I was at first inclined to 
suppose that they might have sailed through the 
Macassar Strait ; but that would not agree with the 
course pursued, which Varthema says was " constantly 
to the southward." Hence, I have been led to infer 
that the Java Sea was the rougher passage indicated; 
though one fails to see the necessity for their having 
taken the route by Borneo, when they might have 
reached Java without touching there at all, unless, 
indeed, the Christians had some particular object in 
visiting that island. Unluckily, the space of two 
hundred miles, which Varthema interposes between 
the Moluccas and Borneo, affords no clue to de- 
termine the route, as the nearest extremities of those 
two places are more than twice that distance apart, 


which leads to the conjecture that by some mischance 
the word miles has been substituted for leagues. 
However this may be, the place where they disem- 
barked was certainly in the highway of trade, for 
" a very great quantity of camphor " was shipped 
from it every year. Varthema heard that this sub- 
stance was the gum of a tree, but not having seen 
the tree himself, he abstains from asserting the truth 
of the report. 

Chartering a vessel at " Bornei," the party pursued 
their course towards the south. The captain, — who 
was probably a Malay, for Varthema and the Persian 
communicated with him through the Christians, 
whereas, had he been an Arab, they would not have 
required an interpreter, — " carried the compass and 
magnet after our manner, and had a chart which was 
all marked with lines perpendicular and across." 
Mr. Markham assumes that the compass was of Euro- 
pean manufacture, its index pointing to the north, 
and not like that of the Chinese pointing to the 
south. It may be so ; nevertheless, I have not yet 
met with any conclusive proof that the Easterns 
borrowed the use of the compass, as they now have 
it, from the West. However, as the polar star was 
invisible, Cogiazenor inquired of the master how he 
navigated. To which he replied, that he steered by his 
compass, which was adjusted to the north ; but, 
pointing out "four or five stars, among which he said 
there was one which was opposite to our north star," 
he stated that on the other side of the said island, 
towards the south, [Java?] there were "some other 


races who navigate by the said four or five stars 
opposite to ours." There can be no doubt that the 
constellation of the Southern Cross is here indicated; 
but the additional information respecting other races 
to the south, " where the day lasted only four hours," 
which would be about 15° to the southward of Van 
Diemen's Land, is most interesting. It is highly im- 
probable that the Malay could have guessed at phe- 
nomena so true, and yet so different to anything 
which he himself had experienced; still, from whence 
did he derive his knowledge, superficial as it was \ 
In a note which Mr. R. H. Major kindly drew up for 
me on this chapter, he remarks: — "This reference to 
Australia is the more remarkable, as it precedes, in 
time, those early indications of the discovery of that 
country which I have shown to exist in manuscript 
maps of the first half of the sixteenth century, 
although the discoverers' names, most probably Por- 
tugese, and the date of the discovery, as yet remain a 
mystery." The mystery of the old Malay's knowledge 
will never be revealed : Varthema might have aided 
us in the matter by pursuing his inquiries, but he 
winds up his record of the skipper's communications 
with the exquisite peroration : " On hearing this, we 
were much pleased and satisfied" ! 

The tedium of the voyage between Borneo and Java 
was relieved by the anxious inquiries of the Christians 
respecting their brethren in the far West. On this 
subject Varthema had much to communicate which 
would be deeply interesting to them ; and when he 
told them " of the Volto Santo at St. Peter's, and of 


the heads of St. Peter and St. Paul, and of many 
other saints," his ingenuous listeners would fain have 
taken him back with them to their country. It is 
by no means improbable, that this friendly converse 
had some influence in determining our traveller to 
bring his wanderings to a close at the first favourable 
opportunity. He had slaked his thirst for adventure 
by seeing parts of the globe which no other European 
of his day had yet visited, and the associations of 
kindred and home, and of the things which he once 
regarded as sacred, revived as they were by these dis- 
cussions, made him long to throw off the trammels of 
a profession which was now becoming a burden 
to him. 

Five days' sail from Borneo brought the vessel to 
Java, but at what place on the island the party 
landed is uncertain ; doubtless, it was somewhere on 
the northern coast. The king and all the people 
were " Pagans," and although one class of the com- 
munity consisted of " the most trustworthy men in 
the world," there was another class still so barbarous 
as to be addicted to the practice of eating human 
flesh. Mr. Crawfurd ridicules the latter idea, which 
would perhaps have been preposterous had our tra- 
vellers touched at one of the more civilized maritime 
towns ; but that, as it appears to me, was not the 
case : first, from this recorded statement respecting 
the subsistence of cannibalism, which, as I have 
shown in my notes, prevailed in other parts of the 
Archipelago at this period. Secondly, because the 
inhabitants were all Pagans, whereas most of the 


frequented ports contained many Muhammedans who 
had introduced a superior civilization together with 
their religion. Thirdly, because in such localities 
fire-arms were well known, while the natives where 
our party disembarked were quite ignorant of ar- 
tillery, their only weapons being bows and darts of 
cane, and the peculiar Smnpitan, or blow-pipe. And, 
lastly, these separate considerations receive general 
confirmation from the absence of all mention in Var- 
thema's narrative that the place which they visited 
was one of trade, — a circumstance which he never 
omits to record whenever such was the case. 

Before quitting Java, Cazazionor purchased a 
couple of young children who had undergone the 
cruel operation regarded as desirable for fitting them 
to become attendants on a Mussulman harim. The 
barbarous practice, which also prevailed in different 
parts of India at this period, was most probably in- 
troduced into these countries with Islam, and many 
"Moorish merchants" are said to have made a trade 
of buying and preparing these wretched victims for 
exportation to foreign markets. 

Crossing over to Malacca, steering at first to the 
eastward to avoid the surrounding islands, our tra- 
vellers there took leave of the Sarnau Christians, with 
sincere regret on both sides, and from thence proceeded 
to " Cioromandel" (Negapatam), where they engaged 
a sampan to take them to Quilon. At that place 
Varthema found twenty Portuguese, and would gladly 
have made his escape to them, " but they were very 
few," and the eyes of some Mussulmans who knew 



him to be Hajji were upon him. At Quilon they em- 
barked on the "river" (see p. lxviii. ante,) and in ten 
days reached Calicut. 

At Calicut, our author met two Milanese, who had 
deserted from the Portuguese at Cochin, and were 
there employed in casting artillery for the Zamorin. 
Varthema concerted with these renegades how to 
effect their escape, but the attempt was surrounded 
with difficulties on all sides, and he was obliged to 
trust to his own resources. Long practice had made 
him fertile in expedients, and an adept at dissimula- 
tion, and on this occasion he set himself up as a 
Muhammedan santon, affecting abstinence from ani- 
mal food, (though he clandestinely helped the Milanese 
to consume two brace of fowls every day,) and a se- 
verity of demeanour consistent with his assumed cha- 
racter. As such, he was consulted in the case of a 
sick friend of Cazazionor, and requested to prescribe 
for him. The narrative of his mode of treating the 
patient, as recorded in the chapter entitled " How I 
made myself a physician in the town of Calicut," is 
as extravagant as it is ludicrous. Fortunately, the 
sick man survived the severe treatment to which he 
was subjected, and the success of his amateur medi- 
cal practice greatly enhanced our author's repute, 
insomuch that he was solicited to act the part of 
Imdm, and lead the prayers of the congregation in 
the mosque. Conceiving that his saintliness was 
now generally established, he next simulated sick- 
ness, and suggested that a change of air might be 
beneficial. Cazazionor, who appears to have been 


wholly blinded by his companion's deceit, readily 
gave his consent, and furnished him with letters of 
recommendation to a friend at Cannanore. Var- 
thema narrowly escaped detention by the Zamorin's 
IS 1 airs at the place of embarkation, but his good 
star was in the ascendant, and after travelling some 
distance along the coast, he eventually picked up a 
boat which carried him to his destination. Under 
the hospitable roof of Cazazionor's acquaintance, he 
breathed more freely, and after reconnoitering the 
spot where the Portuguese fort was in course of erec- 
tion, he availed himself of the next favourable oppor- 
tunity to place himself under the protection of the 
garrison. Lorenzo de Almeyda, the Viceroy's son, 
who was there at the time, gave a hearty welcome to 
one who was so well able to describe the warlike 
preparations which were being made at Calicut to 
oppose the Portuguese, and after discussing such mat- 
ters with him for several days, sent him on board a 
galley to his father at Cochin, who also gave him 
an honourable reception, and remanded him to 
Cannanore to use his best endeavours in behalf 
of the two Milanese at Calicut. His efforts, how- 
ever, to effect their liberation were unsuccessful. The 
unfortunate men were betrayed by the spy he em- 
ployed to communicate with them, and were barba- 
rously murdered by a crowd of infuriated Joghis in 
their own house at Calicut. 

The sequel of our author's Indian career may be 
told in a few words. He appears to have been pre- 
sent at a great naval engagement between the Por- 



tuguese and the Zamorin's fleet off Cannanore, and was 
subsequently employed for a year and a half as factor 
at Cochin. He also describes the siege of the Por- 
tuguese fort at Cannanore by the justly-incensed 
population, which occurred during his tenure of office, 
and the opportune relief of the beleaguered garrison 
by the fleet under Tristan de Cunna. He also took part 
in the attack on Ponani, and in the destruction of the 
Zamorin's ships which were anchored there, and after 
the battle was, with several others, dubbed a knight 
by the Viceroy Don Francisco de Almeyda, the gal- 
lant Captain Tristan de Cunna acting as his sponsor 
on the occasion. His account of these different ope- 
rations is replete with interesting details, and its 
general authenticity is fully corroborated by nume- 
rous undesigned coincidences between his narrative 
and the records of later Portuguese historians. Un- 
fortunately, one is unable to deduce any reflection, 
from Varthema's independent testimony, palliative of 
the unwarrantable proceedings of the Portuguese 
towards the native states on the western coast of 
India at this period. Those proceedings, the offspring 
of national ambition and selfishness, were carried 
out in a spirit of barbarity mingled with fanaticism 
which outraged the first principles of justice, and dis- 
graced the religion which it was one design of such 
conduct to promote. Would that the history of our 
own first transactions in India were unstained by any 
such blemishes ! Let us hope that some, at least, of 
those early faults have been atoned for, and that the 
remainder will be forgotten in the future prosperity 


of an empire which has been justly called the brightest 
jewel in the diadem of Britain's glorious Queen. 

On the 6th of December 1507, our traveller finally 
left Cannanore with the homeward-bound ships, on 
board the San Viccnzo, a vessel belonging to one Bar- 
tolomeo Marchioni, a Florentine resident at Lisbon. 
While on the voyage, he takes a brief retrospect of 
the recent conquests of the Portuguese in the East, 
and predicts a glorious future for that monarchy 
owing to the simultaneous efforts which were made, 
under its immediate auspices, to promote Christianity 
among the natives of India. t: Ten, and even twelve, 
Pagans and Moors were baptized every fete day" at 
Cochin alone, and the work of conversion, which was 
being zealously prosecuted, was everywhere crowned 
with signal success. The prognostication, as regards 
territorial aggrandizement, was speedily realized ; 
for, fifteen years later, the Portuguese had made 
themselves masters of the principal ports on the Ma- 
labar and Coromanclel coasts, of parts of Ceylon and 
the Malayan peninsula, and also of the Moluccas. 
Their possession of Malacca in the east, and their 
settlements at Diu and Goa on the west, enabled 
them to engross the entire trade, including that of 
the Persian Gulf on the one side, where they held the 
important island of Hormuz, and that of China, Japan, 
and the Indian Archipelago on the other. Their 
ships frequented every port, and their merchandize 
was to be found from the Cape of Good Hope to the 
river of Canton ; while along this immense line of 
coast they had established a chain of forts and fac- 


tories, where their traffic was carried on and pro- 
tected, unrivalled and uncontrolled. The commercial 
empire of the Portuguese in the East* whether con- 
sidered in the dimensions which it attained, the brief 
space in which it was consolidated, its opulence, the 
splendour with which its government was conducted, 
or the very slender powers with which it was formed, 
is unique in the history of nations. 

But the dominion thus acquired was as short-lived 
as the sincere piety, the generous courage, and the 
indefatigable energy which had created it. No longer 
animated by the spirit of the original conquerors, 
their successors, heedless of the common cause, be- 
came indolent, debauched, and effeminate, and strove 
solely for their own individual profit. Officers and 
soldiers were without subordination, discipline, or 
patriotism, and the governors, corrupt themselves, 
found it their interest to foment divisions among their 
countrymen. These intestine cabals alone, combined 
with the oppression which was exercised towards the 
natives, would have sufficed in time to disintegrate 
the newly-formed empire ; but its downfall was pre- 
cipitated by the appearance of a formidable enemy 
from without. The revolted Dutch, interdicted by a 
decree of Philip II., of Spain and Portugal, from all 
commercial relations with those kingdoms, seized 
every opportunity of harassing and humiliating their 
former masters, and, taking advantage of the anarchy 
which pervaded the Portuguese colonies in the East, 
boldly prosecuted their trade in that quarter, and 
determined at length to expel their rivals. In the 


course of a few years they deprived them of the 
Moluccas, the Spice Islands, Amboyna, Tidor, Ceylon, 
and Malacca. The English, also, who had now begun 
to claim a share of the spoils, wrested from them 
Surat and other parts of Guzerat, and in conjunction 
with the Shah of Persia drove them from the island of 
HormuZjWhile the Imam of Maskat expelled them from 
'Amman, and from many of their settlements in East 
Africa. And now, Macao in China, with Dili, Goa, 
and Daman on the Guzerat and Canarese coasts, are 
the only fragments which remain to them of an em- 
pire which Alexander coveted but could not win. 

The religious conquests of the Portuguese, how- 
ever, have survived their temporal sovereignty, and 
the descendants of the first converts, with large 
additions won over to the Church of Rome by the 
zeal of subsequent missionaries, are still to be found 
scattered over the continent of India, and more 
especially in the Madras Presidency, the scene of 
their earliest efforts at evangelization, where their 
numbers are very considerable. Political influence, 
emanating from every department of the Govern- 
ment, was undoubtedly used at the outset to promote 
Christianity among the natives ; for that, indeed, was 
one of the avowed objects of the invaders, who pro- 
fessed to be as anxious to destroy the strongholds of 
heathendom, as to secure territorial dominion. But 
the withdrawal of State cooperation, consequent on 
the extinction of Portuguese supremacy, was not 
followed, as might have been expected, by any 
general apostacy of the proselytes ; on the contrary, 


though arrested for a time, the work of conversion 
progressed, and fresh native churches were formed, 
whose members at the present day far outnumber the 
converts to Protestantism made by the combined 
efforts of Dutch, American, and English missionaries, 
of all denominations. 

How are we to account for this remarkable pheno- 
menon in the history of Christianity in India? Whence 
comes it that Roman Catholic missions there have 
ever been more successful than missions from the 
Reformed Churches 1 Whence, that their converts, 
a feeble folk though they be, have persistently 
clung to their adopted faith amidst all the political 
changes which have surrounded them, the social in- 
fluences which both directly and indirectly have been 
levelled against them, and the strenuous exertions 
which have been put forth to win them over to a 
purer creed \ And, supposing the case, that British 
domination in India were to terminate as suddenly as 
did that of the Portuguese, is it probable that two 
centuries later there would be found amidst its ruins 
native communities professing the Reformed religion 
as we now find congregations of native Christians 
firmly attached to the Church of Rome % One of 
our own Bishops in India, after describing some of 
the old Portuguese churches in the neighbourhood 
of Bombay makes the following remarks : — " They 
are melancholy objects to look at, but they are monu- 
ments, nevertheless, of departed greatness, of a love 
of splendour far superior to the anxiety for amassing 
money, by which other nations have been chiefly 


actuated, and of a zeal for God which, if not accord- 
ing to knowledge, was a zeal still, and a sincere one. 
It was painful to me, at the time, to think, how few 
relics, if the English were now expelled from India, 
would be left behind of their religion, their power, 
or their civil and military magnificence." 1 During 
the forty years which have elapsed since the late 
lamented Heber penned these lines, a great advance 
has been made in our own civil and political status in 
India, and much has undoubtedly been done to im- 
prove the secular and intellectual condition of the 
people generally; but as regards the diffusion of our 
religion among the natives, how insignificantly little 
has been effected, especially when compared with the 
profuse and expensive machinery which for the last 
century has been set in motion to that end ! 

I would be understood as alluding to this subject 
in its purely human point of view, and wholly apart 
from all supernatural or Divine affinities ; but even 
under that aspect, the reflections which it is calcu- 
lated to evoke deserve the serious consideration of 
such as believe that Christianity alone can regenerate 
India, and particularly of those who, whether in this 
country or on the spot, are engaged in promoting its 
extension among our fellow-subjects in that vast 

To discuss this interesting topic more fully would 
be foreign to a work like the present, and perhaps 
an apology is due for the foregoing intrusion of it. 
Readily granting the same, I return again to the 
narrative of our Europe-bound traveller. 

1 Bishop Heber's Journal, vol. iii. p. 91. 


After a course of "about three thousand miles" 
from Cannanore, the San Vincenzo reached Mozam- 
bique on the east coast of Africa, or^ as the coun- 
try was then called, "Ethiopia." They saw " many 
lands" on the way, where the King of Portugal 
held strong fortresses, but whether they landed at 
those places or not is uncertain. Varthema enu- 
merates Malindi, Mombasa, Kilwah, Sofala, Pate, 
and Brava, but omits all mention of Mukdishu and 
Lamu on the continent, and the adjacent islands of 
Zanzibar and Pemba, which latter is called by the 
Arabs Jezirat el-Khaclhra, or the Green Island. 
Most of these localities had been captured by the 
Portuguese before our author's arrival, and several 
of them were well garrisoned. The conciliatory policy 
adopted by Vasco de Gama when he first visited this 
coast in 1498 had been reversed by his successors, 
whose arrogant pretensions, inspired by a thirst after 
gold and conquest, soon brought them into collision 
with the inhabitants, who were eventually obliged to 
succumb to the superior arms of the invaders. Almost 
all the places above-mentioned were at this period in 
the hands of the Arabs, whose original settlements on 
the coast must have taken place at a very early 
period. Eschewing the knotty question of the 
locality of the Scriptural " Ophir," which some have 
attempted to identify with Sofala, and whether Solo- 
mon was supplied with " ivory, apes, and peacocks," 
by Arab traders between Eziongeber and the east 
coast of Africa, the reader will find in the following 
quotation from the researches of Dr. Krapf a valuable 


summary of the more authentic history of these 
foreign colonists. — 

" It is well known that the Muhammeclan Arabs, during the 
first period of their history, for 150 years, overran a large 
section of Asia, Africa, and Europe, and that soon after the 
death of their prophet Muhammed they fell a prey to political 
and religious dissensions, and the defeated party resolved to 
abandon the land of their birth. Where was a better home 
to be found than the fruitful strand of Eastern Africa? 
There they were already known, and would be safe from 
the pursuit of their fanatical conquerors. It seems that the 
first settlements of the kind were made in various points of the 
East- African coast in the year 740 by the Emosaids, or ad- 
herents of Said, a great grandson of Ali, the prophet's cousin 
and son-in-law. Said, proclaimed Caliph by the rebels, was 
defeated and slain, on which his adherents were obliged to 
seek safety in flight, and it was in East Africa that they 
found refuge. In the works of various Arabian historians 
and geographers, for several centuries afterwards, we find in- 
teresting notices of these Arab settlements. From all these 
notices it is to be gathered, that the Muhammedan Arabs 
founded political and religious states or towns in Eastern 
Africa, and that their migration to that country was some- 
times voluntary, sometimes forced upon them. Among these 
Arabian states or towns the most prominent are: Mukdishu, 
Kilwah, Brava, Malindi, and Mombasa. Mukdishu was 
supreme in the north, while Kilwah was queen of the south, 
from Zanzibar to Sofala. With the declining power of these 
two states and towns, Malindi and Mombasa, situated mid- 
way between them, appear to have increased in influence 
and importance. Mukdishu seems to have been founded 
between a.d. 909-951 ; and Kilwah between a.d. 960-1000. 
It is likely from the narrative of the famous Ibn Batuta, 1 
1 [See Lee's Translation, pp. 55-57.] 


who visited Mombasa about a.d. 1330, that the Wanika 
[a native tribe] had not then settled in the vicinity of the 
coast. ... 

" These Arabian cities and communities were prosperous, 
and in some degree civilized ; but they were deficient in 
military organization. They had not been founded by con- 
querors, but by traders, emigrants, and exiles, who behaved 
peaceably to the natives, and so developed and established 
their influence slowly, but at the same time more surely. 
They were pacific colonists, and by the trade and commerce 
which they originated, the natives of the interior could not 
but recognize the advantage of peaceful intercourse with the 
strangers, and be glad of their presence. . . . But the 
Arabs were not to remain for ever in exclusive possession of 
the knowledge, the commerce, and the power of Eastern Africa, 
— a possession which would have led them to rule and 
to convert the whole of Southern Africa. Providence inter- 
posed, and at the right time led into those waters and to 
that coast a Christian power, to check the progress and 
weaken the influence of Muhammedanism." 

The subsequent domination of this " Christian " 
power, and its baneful results, are thus described : — 

" In East Africa, Portugal enriched herself by levying 
tribute and taxes, in addition to her enormous gains from 
the gold-mines of Sofala ; but East Africa received nothing 
in return. She ruled the East-Africans with a rod of iron, 
and their pride and cruelty had their reward in the bitter 
hatred of the natives. In Eastern Africa, the Portuguese 
have left nothing behind them but ruined fortresses, palaces, 
and ecclesiastical buildings. Nowhere is there to be seen a 
single trace of any improvement effected by them. No 
wonder that the Portuguese rule was of short duration, and 
that it fell as quickly as it had risen. John IV. had, indeed, 
restored independence to Portugal in 1640; but he could 
no longer save his colonies. In 1620, Portugal had already 


lost the island of Hormuz, and its loss was the more felt, 
because it gave the Arabs of Oman courage and leisure to 
extend and to strengthen their influence in the Persian 
Gulf and in Eastern Africa. Portugal had no longer men 
like Albuquerque, capable of restoring the fallen influence 
of their country in those seas. All were now alike corrupt 
and incapable. In India and its waters, England and 
Holland had appeared, and with their appearance the star of 
Portugal had to sink to the horizon." 

Some idea of the hostile relations which existed 
between the Portuguese and the natives towards the 
middle of the seventeenth century, may be gathered 
from an inscription over the gateway leading into the 
fortress of Mombasa. I had not time to transcribe 
it during my short stay at that island in December 
1860, but relied on a copy in my possession, which I 
believe was taken by Dr. Krapf. The following is a 
translation of the original Portuguese : — 

" In 1635, Chief Captain Francisco de Xeixas cle Cabreira, 
aged 27 years, after having commanded this fortress for 
four years, rebuilt it, and raised this corps-de-garde. And 
he reduced into submissio7i to His Majesty the coast of 
Malindi, where a tyrant king had sprung up, and made the 
kings of Tondo, Mandra, Lazieva, and Jaca, tributaries. 
He also visited Pate and Sio with a punishment never before 
witnessed in India, levelling the walls thereof to the ground. 
He imposed a fine on the Muzungidos , and punished Pemba 
and its rebel people, killing the petty king, who had been set up 
by them and by others of note, obliging the Pariahs to pay 
to His Majesty the tribute which they had evaded for years. 
For these services, he teas raised to the dignity of Fidalgo of 
His Majesty' 's Household, having previously received, for other 
similar services, the decoration of the Knight of the Order of 
Christ, an annuity of a thousand Reis, and six years' tenure 


of the Governorship of Jafampatas and four of that of 
Bcligas, with flic faculty of making all [appointments] therein 
during his lifetime. [This inscription teas raised] a.i>. 1639, 
when Pedro cle Silvoa was Viceroy.'''' 

" We have still to show how the authority of the Arabian 
princes of Oman first rose, and gradually replaced that of the 
Portuguese along the East- African coast. Oman comprises 
the north and south-eastern portions of Arabia, which lie on 
the Gulf of Persia and the Indian Ocean. In the year 1624, 
after great disorders and dissensions, Oman and its inhabi- 
tants became subject to the rule of a sagacious and energetic 
Imam, Nasir bin Murshid, the Ya'arabite. After establishing 
his sovereignty in Oman, he planned the complete expulsion 
of the Portuguese from their Arabian and African posses- 
sions. . . . His victories over the Portuguese were con- 
tinued by his cousin and successor, Sultan bin Seif bin 
Malik, who took Maskat in 1658, leaving the Portuguese 
then no seaport of any consequence on the coast of Arabia. 
His second son, Sultan Seif, who defeated his brother 
Bel'arab and usurped the throne, at the request of the 
people of Mombasa, sent a fleet to Eastern Africa, captured 
Mombasa, Zanzibar, and Kilwah, and laid siege to Mozam- 
bique in 1698. He placed a governor in Mombasa who 
was nominally subject to Oman. After the fall of Mombasa, 
the Portuguese on "the East-African coast were everywhere 
massacred or expelled ; and there was an end of their 
sovereignty from Cape Delgado to Cape Gardafui. Even 
the town of Mukdishu, which had retained its independence 
during the period of the Portuguese rule, placed itself under 
the protection of the princes of Oman." 1 

The different towns and forts on the coasts, to- 
gether with the adjacent islands, from Cape Delgado 

1 Ivkaim's Travels and Missionary Labours in Eastern Africa, 
pp. 521-29. 


to Mukdishu, still remain in the hands of the 'Amman 
Seyyeds or Sultans ; but by a recent arrangement 
the African territories have been detached from the 
parent state, and placed under the sovereignty of 
Seyyed Majicl, a younger son of the late Seyyed Said, 
known to Europeans as the Imam of Maskat, his 
eldest brother Seyyed Thoweynee retaining possession 
of 'Amman. 

But it is high time to rejoin our party whom we 
left at Mozambique. During their fifteen days' resi- 
dence at that island, they made several trips on the 
mainland, and Varthema gives a graphic description 
of the physiognomy of the aboriginal 3fakuas, their 
strange jargon, and peculiar and scanty costume. 
The excursionists carried torches to frighten the ele- 
phants which abounded in the neighbourhood, but, 
notwithstanding this precaution, they were chased by 
three dams followed by their young, and only escaped 
by running up a mountain. On this occasion also, 
they met some natives who dwelt in caves, and our 
author's account of their bartering with them reveals 
the cupidity of the foreigners and the simplicity of 
the barbarians. The former had the dishonesty to 
demand thirty bullocks for a bombardier's rasor and 
a little bell, with the addition of a shirt which Var- 
thema incontinently divested himself of for the sake 
of obtaining a meal of fresh meat. They were even- 
tually content with fifteen head of cattle, on the un- 
derstanding, however, that the owners should conduct 
the animals to the top of the mountain. On the way, 
and while these Christians were exulting over their 


extortionate bargain, a great noise was heard which 
was supposed to arise from a warm discussion among 
the natives, as to which of their number should be- 
come the happy possessor of the little bell. What 
a picture of civilized and uncivilized humanity ! 
Europe and Africa ! 

Madagascar, or the Island of San Lorenzo, as it 
was then called, was sighted on the voyage to the 
Cape, beyond which the vessels composing the fleet 
were scattered by a furious storm, and did not meet 
again till they reached Portugal. That in which our 
author sailed passed under St. Helena and Ascension, 
at which latter place he notices the swarms of boo- 
bies which alighted on the deck, and were easily 
taken with the hand. Next, they reached the Azores, 
remaining for two days at the island of Terceira, and 
finally arrived at Lisbon, — in Varthema's case, after 
an absence from Europe of about five years. He 
leaves to the conception of his readers the delight 
which he experienced at being once more within easy 
reach of home, while he himself sets off on a visit to 
Don Emanuel of Portugal. That deservedly " For- 
tunate" monarch welcomed the enterprising traveller 
to his court, where he detained him several days lis- 
tening with pleasure to the interesting tale of his 
discoveries and adventures, and was graciously pleased 
to confirm the honour of knighthood which had been 
conferred upon him by the Viceroy of India after the 
battle of Ponani. Receiving his Majesty's permission 
to depart, Varthema hurried away to the land of his 
birth, and takes leave of us from the city of Rome as 
abruptly as I bring my following him to a close. 


[n the annotations on the text, I have specified my 
obligations to Professor Owen, to J. J. Bennett, Esq., 
and to R. H. Major, Esq., of the British Museum, 
and also to C. R. Markham, Esq., for their prompt 
aid where my own knowledge was at fault. A similar 
recognition is due to J. Winter Jones, Esq., my col- 
league in the preparation of this work, for his uni- 
form kindness in aiding me in my part of the task. 
To J. Crawfurd, Esq., whose learned researches into 
the history of that region were my principal guide in 
tracing our author's route through the Indian Archi- 
pelago, I owe my best thanks. And last, though 
not least, I feel deeply indebted to my friend Colonel 
H. Yule, C.B. for many useful suggestions, and, 
moreover, for having volunteered to compile the 
Table of Contents, and also the valuable Index at 
the end of this volume, which may justly elicit the 
encomium, finis coronat opus. 

I had designed to write an Introduction, but have, 
I fear, written a book. The mistake will be un- 
accompanied with regret, if the attempt be found 
useful to the Members of the Hakluyt Society in 
illustrating the early and wonderful travels of old 
Ludovico di Varthema. 

George Percy Badger. 

7, Dawson Place, Bayswater, 
November 1863. 



I am surprised to find that in transcribing a quotation 
from Barbosa respecting the City of Bengala, (note 3 
on p. 210,) I omitted a part of his account which, 
had the passage been more carefully studied, might 
have prevented my erroneous identification of Var- 
thema's Banghella with the capital of Gour, and 
afforded me at the same time a clue to the position 
of the former town. Premising that Barbosa was 
travelling from west to east, and had just before 
described the kingdom of Orixa, (Orissa,) and the 
Guengita, or Ganges, whereby the Hoogly branch is 
clearly indicated, he proceeds to say : — 

" Beyond the Ganges, onward towards the East, is the 
kingdom of Bengala, wherein there are many places and 
cities, as Avell inland as on the sea-coast. Those in the in- 
terior are inhabited by Gentiles, who are subject to the king 
of Bengala, who is a Moor ; and the stations on the coast are 
full of Moors and Gentiles, among whom are many mer- 
chants and traders to all parts. For this sea forms a gulf 
which bends towards the north, at the head of which is 
situated a great city inhabited by Moors, which is called 
Bengala, with a good port. The inhabitants thereof are 
white men, who are well-disposed. In the same city there 
are many foreigners from all parts, including Arabia, Persia, 
and Abyssinia. The country being very extensive, and the 


climate temperate, many persons frequent it, and all are 
great merchants, who possess large ships made like those of 
Mecca, and some like those of China, called Giunchi, which 
are very large, and carry large cargoes, and with these they 
navigate towards Coromandel, Malabar, Cambaia, Tarnasscri, 
Sumatra, Zeilam, and Malaca, and they trade with all kinds 
of merchandize from one place to the other." Ramusio, 
vol. i. p. 315. 

The foregoing extract, taken in conjunction with 
Varthema's narrative, is satisfactory evidence that a 
city called Banghclla or Bcngala existed at this period, 
that it was a seaport of considerable trade, and was 
situated beyond the Hooghly, at the head of the gulf 
known in those days as the Gulf of Bengal. It is 
remarkable that Barbosa makes no allusion whatever 
either to Satigan or Chatigam, (Satgong and Chitta- 
gong ;) but in the Sommario de Regni, etc., as given 
by Ramusio, the former place is mentioned under the 
name of Asedegam, and some further particulars are 
supplied respecting the city of Bengala. After de- 
scribing the kingdom of Bengala, the author sub- 
joins: — 

" Of the seaports of the kingdom, the principal is in the 
city of Bengala, from which the kingdom takes its name. 
One goes in two days from the mouth of the Ganges to the 
city, which [Mouth of the Ganges] now goes by the name of 
Sino Gangetico or Gulf of Bengal, and in the best roadsteads 
the water is three braccia deep. The city contains about 
40,000 hearths, and the king has a residence there at all 
times, which is the only one covered with tiles, and is built 
with well-made bricks. 

"There is also another port, called Asedegam, towards the 
kingdom of Oriza, which is a good port, with a wide en- 



trance, where there is a good and wealthy city, containing 
many merchants, and about 10,000 hearths. These are the 
principal mercantile cities of Bengala." Ramusio, vol. i. 


p. ooo. 

As far as my researches go, these are the only 
circumstantial accounts which we possess of the 
ancient Bengala, subsequent to which I find it men- 
tioned by Purchas and Mandelslo, but by no other 
writers. Mandelslo does not appear to have visited 
it personally, and merely enumerates it among the 
principal cities of the then kingdom of Bengal. (See 
a quotation from his Voyages in the note on p. 211.) 
Purchas has the following : — 

" The kingdome of Bengala is very large, and hath of 
coast one hundred and twentie leagues, and as much within 
land. Francis Fernandas measureth it from the confines of 
the kingdome of Ramu or Porto Grande [Chittagong] to 
Palmerine, ninety miles beyond Porto Pequene, in all six 
hundred miles long. The river Chaberis, (which some call 
Guenga, and think it to be the ancient Ganges,) watereth 
it : it is plentiful in rice, wheat, sugar, ginger, long-pepper, 
cotton and silke, and enjoy eth a very wholesome ay re. The 
inhabitants neere the shoare are, (for the most part,) Ma- 
humetans, and so also was the king, before the Great Mogore, 
(one likewise of his owne sect,) conquered him. Gouro, the 
seat royall, and Bengala, are faire cities. Of this, the Gulfe, 
sometimes called Gangeticus, now beareth name Golfo di 
Bengala. Chatigan is also reckoned amongst these cities." 
Voyages, vol. v. p. 508. 

Of the travellers subsequent to Barbosa, Caesar 
Fredericke (a.d. 1563) represents Satigan as a flour- 
ishing commercial port, and locates it 120 miles from 
the mouth of the Ganges (Ilooghly,) but he does not 


allude cither to Bengala or Chatigam. (Ramusio, 
vol. i. p. 392.) Ralph Fitch, twenty years later, 
describes both S a tag an and Chatigan, and tells us 
that Chatigan was called " Porto Grande " by the 
Portuguese ; but he says nothing about Bengala. 
In Hamilton's time, a.d. 1688 — 1723, the town of 
Hooghly appears to have succeeded Satigan as the 
chief seaport on the western branch of the Ganges, 
for he represents the former as " driving a great 
trade, because all foreign goods are brought thither 
for import, and all goods of the product of Bengal 
are brought hither for exportation," which circum- 
stance sufficiently accounts for his not naming Sati- 
gan. " Chittagoung, or, as the Portuguese call it, 
Xatigam," he describes at some length, but he never 
mentions the city of Bengala, which the earlier writers 
located at no great distance from that town. (See 
Pinkerton, vol. ix. p. 414-16. Vol. viii. p. 415.) 

Turning from the travellers to the historians of 
the period under review, one is surprised to find the 
same omission. De Barros, as quoted by Ramusio, 
in describing the Ganges, says : — 

" Its first mouth, which is on the West, is called Satigan, 
from a city of that name situated in its streams, where our 
people carry on their mercantile transactions. The other, 
which is on the East, comes out very near another and more 
famous port called Chatigam, which is frequented by most 
of the merchants who arrive at and depart from this king- 
dom." Ramusio, vol. i. p. 390. 

De Faria y Souza is equally explicit with regard 
to Satigan and Chatigan, but never alludes to Ben- 


yala. After indicating the line of coast between the 
Ilooghly and the eastern branch of the Ganges, he 
writes: — 

" Within this interval is contained the Bay of Bengala, 
called by some Sinus Gangeticus, because the river Ganges, 
after watering the country of Bengala, falls into this bay 
about the latitude of 23 degrees. . . . Though the river 
Ganges has many mouths, the two most remarkable are called 
Satigan to the west, and Chatigan on the east, near one hun- 
dred leagues distant from each other." 

And, again : — 

" This river [Ganges] has its springs in the mountains of 
Great Tartary, from whence it runs to the southward near 
600 leagues, and divides India into two parts, Intra and Ex- 
tra Gangem. In the mouth that falls into the sea to the 
eastward is the city Chatigam, on that to the westward Sati- 
gam. The principal city is Gouro, seated on the banks of 
Ganges, three leagues in length, containing one million two 
hundred thousand families, and well fortified." Portuguese 
Asia, translated by Stevens, vol. i. pp. 96-97, 416-17. 

The absence of all allusion to Bengala by travellers 
and historians generally subsequent to Varthema and 
T3arbosa, with the exception of Mandelslo and Purchas, 
is the more remarkable from the fact of its appear- 
ance, together with Chatigam, in most of the early 
maps of Asia and of India, and its reproduction by 
succeeding cartographers for nearly two centuries 
later. The following is a list of the principal maps 
belonging to the British Museum, arranged in chrono- 
logical order, wherein both cities are noted : — 






Gastaldi - 


Venetia, a.d. 



Bengala and Catigan 






- - 

Ben gala, 







- - 





Bleauw 1 - 



- - 





Mariette - 



. .. 








- - 




Visscher - 



- - 







- - 





DeWitt - 



- - 








- - 







- - 




Visscher - 



- - 




Mathys - 



- - 







- - 


Hindoostan id. 



- - 







- - 


To the above I may add that in the map of India 
Orienlalis attached to Patavino's Geography, (date, 
a.d. 1597,) Bengala is marked as a town situated at 
the head of the gulf, on the right bank of the eastern 
mouth of the Ganges. It also occupies the same 
position in Hondius his Map of the East Indies, as 
given in Vol. i. of Purchas. 

The following cartographers, immediately succeed- 
ing Ottens, omit the city of Bengala* and the name 
does not reappear in any map of a subsequent date: — 

Asia - Hasius 
India - Mayer 
Hindoostan Blair - 

- Nurnberg, 1744 

id., 1748 

- London, 1773 

- Satigan [for Chatigam]. 

- Chatigan. 

- Chitta^ong orShatig;an. 

The time when Bengala thus ceases to be repre- 

1 This is most probably the map referred to by Colonel Yule, 
(see p. lxxx. ante.) He writes the author's name Bleau, mis- 
printed Blcan ; but in the copy of the map in the British Museum it 
is spelt as above. 


sented in the maps corresponds with RenneH's state- 
ment, that the city " appears to have been in exist- 
ence during the early part of the last century." (See 
p. lxxxi. ante.) 

The next subject which calls for inquiry is the site 
of this ancient Bengala. All the maps enumerated 
in the first of the foregoing lists, with the exception 
of the oldest one by Gastaldi, locate Bengala either 
on the north-east, due east, or south-east of Chatigam. 
Now, if the relative situation of the two cities cor- 
responded with one or other of these descriptions, 
it is difficult to conceive how the site of Bengala 
could have been carried away by the river, as Rennell 
supposes, and that of Chatigam, or Chittagong, left 
intact. Reverse the position of the two places, and 
such a result would not only be probable, but would 
moreover serve to account for the present greater 
depth of the Gulf of Bengal in that direction as com- 
pared with the delineations of it given in the old maps, 
and also for the increased distance which now appears 
to exist between Chittagong and the eastern mouth 
of the Ganges. Singularly enough, Gastaldi does so 
transpose the sites of the two cities, placing Catigan 
on the south-east of Bengala, as will be seen from the 
accompanying section copied from his map. 

This alone is but slender ground whereon to form 
an hypothesis ; nevertheless, the inference which I 
am disposed to draw therefrom receives support from 
the manner in which De Barros and De Faria y Souza 
describe the Ganges in the extracts already quoted 
from their writings. Both profess to indicate its two 


extremities where it debouches into the sea, and in 
doing so both select Satigan as its western and Chati- 
gam as its eastern boundary ; whereas, had Bengala 
been to the south-eastward or southward of Chatigam, 
it is presumable that, standing as Barbosa tells us it 
did on the mouth of the nether Ganges, they would 
have chosen it, rather than Chatigam, to mark the 
eastern termination of that river. 

In the absence, therefore, of any direct proof to 
the contrary, beyond the not very reliable informa- 
tion contained in the old atlases, I am inclined to 
infer that Bengala occupied a position between the 
Hattia and Sundeep islands, situated at the present 
mouth of the Brahmaputra, which I conceive to be 
the eastern branch of the Ganges of the earlier geo- 
graphers, and have so placed it, marked with a star, 
in the map attached to this volume. That I may be 
mistaken is more than possible ; but it is worth while 
hazarding an erroneous opinion on a subject of this 
nature, if it were only for the sake of eliciting ulterior 
research and discussion, which may result in defining 
the correct site of the ancient city of Bengala. 

G. P. B. 


Go, traverse distant lands, in each you'll find 
Some in the place of those you leave behind : 
Some, it may chance, of more congenial hearts, — 

Sympathy is life's charm, — its bane ennui, — 

No honour lies in inactivity, — 
Then quit your home, go, range in foreign parts. 
The stagnant puddle foul and fetid grows, 
Healthful and clear the running fountain flows : 
Unless the changes of the moon on high 
Revealed the future to the sage's eye, 
He would not watch her aspect in the sky : 
Unless he left his den, the forest-king 

Would win no trophies of the sylvan war : 
Unless the arrow parted from the string, 

It could not hit the destined mark afar : 
The Tibr, 2 when from its native mine cast forth, 
Appears as vile unprofitable earth ; 

The aloes-wood enjoys but slight esteem 
In its own land, — mere fuel for the hearth ; 
Let either quit the country of its birth, 

The one, an ore all-coveted we deem, 
The other, a perfume of priceless worth. 

1 Translated from the Arabic. Tor the English versification, the Editor is 
indebted to the Eev. P. G. Hill. 

2 Tibr means unwronght gold, either in the form of dust or nuggets. The 
word is also applied to designate native ores generally. 


of Ludovico di Varthema, of Bologna, 

in Egypt, in Syria, in Arabia Deferta and 

Felix, in Perfia, in India, and in 

Ethiopia. The religion, mode of life, 

and cuftoms, of all the aforefaid 

Provinces, with the Grace 

and Privilege hereinafter 


[For the Publishers' unities ami Jate of publicatiou, see the end of the volume on p. 298.] 


f Translated from the original Latin by the Editor.] 

RAPHAEL, by Divine grace, Bishop of Portueri, 
Cardinal of Saint George, Chamberlain of our 
Most Holy Lord the Pope, and of the Holy Roman 
Church, to alt and singular, by whatsoever name 
called, and with whatsoever dignity or office invested, 
and to all others whom it does or may concern, to 
whom these our letters may come, — Peace in the 
Lord for ever. 

Whereas among other subjects and sciences which, 
as well by the inspiration of genius as by art and 
experience, promote the benefit, usefulness, and 
enjoyment of mankind, and by transmission from 
hand to hand are enlarged and illustrated, the de- 
scription and measurement of the world and of parts 
of the earth, which the Greeks call Cosmography, 
Geography, Topography, Geometry, and other like 
names, do not hold the last place, and yield no less 
pleasure than profit ; on which account those who 
have devoted themselves to such studies have always 
been held in the highest honour, and have been 
abundantly rewarded. — Therefore, whereas our well- 
beloved friend Ludovico Vartomanus of Bologna, 


who (as we are assured) has for the space of seven 
years travelled over the most remote and hardly- 
known regions of Asia and Africa, and has largely 
written in the vernacular tongue of their sites, seas, 
rivers, pools, lakes, forests, mountains, cities, lands, 
people, and their established manners, rites, laws, and 
other memorable things, and has corrected many 
places, (as one may well do who sees all with his own 
eyes, and has not merely heard thereof or received it 
from others,) in Ptolemy, Strabo, Pliny, and other 
most famous writers, and has also added much to 
what others have written thereon up to this time. — It 
is our pleasure, being moreover advised thereto by 
many other Most Reverend Cardinals of the Apostolic 
See, that what he has committed to writing and 
collected into a volume, should be printed for the 
public use and study of the things therein contained, 
and that it should be held worthy, not only of praise 
and commendation, but of ample reward. We, being 
desirous (as is meet) to assist him as far as we are able, 
and to recompense his industry with all due favours, 
do, by these presents, proclaim, decree, and inhibit, 
in virtue of a mandate from our Most Holy Lord the 
Pope in person, communicated to us by word of 
mouth to that effect, and by the authority of our 
Chamberlain's office, that all Printers who shall be 
applied to by the said Ludovico, that they print his 
writings on his own request or that of any of his 
heirs; and that all other Printers abstain from print- 
ing them, and that no Printers or persons of any 
other condition whatsoever, either of themselves, or 


through any other or others, shall dare or presume to 
sell the printed books or volumes of the said Ludo- 
vico, without the consent of the said Ludovico or of 
his acknowledged heirs, for the space of ten years to 
come, to be reckoned from the date of their first 
impression ; and, further, that they lend no aid, 
counsel or countenance, to either Printers or Venders 
of the same, against the wishes of the said Ludovico 
and his heirs, under the penalty of one hundred 
ducats of gold to be exacted for every counterfeit 
and from every one so counterfeiting, without any 
other declaration of the fact, through the medium of 
the Apostolic Chamber, to be applied to the use of 
the said Ludovico or his heirs. We further command 
and inhibit, under the same penalty, all those whom 
it may concern, that this our edict, decree, and will, 
be executed in like manner at the instance of the 
said Ludovico, or of his successors and heirs, for the 
space of the aforesaid ten years, against all and every 
one who, in any manner, or under any pretext, shall 
be guilty of counterfeit, — the Apostolical constitu- 
tions, ordinances, statutes, and customs, even when 
confirmed by oath, also the privileges and licenses 
granted to any persons whatsoever, under any words 
or form of words, notwithstanding. 

Given at Rome, at our Palace of Saint Laurence 
in Damaso, the xviith day of November m.d.x., with 
the usual seal of our Chamberlain's office appended. 









There have been many men who have devoted themselves 
to the investigation of the things of this world, and by the 
aid of divers studies, journeys, and very exact relations, have 
endeavoured to accomplish their desire. Others, again, of 
more perspicacious understandings, to whom the earth has 
not sufficed, such as the Chaldeans and Phoenicians, have 
begun to traverse the highest regions of Heaven with careful 
observations and watchings ; from all which I know that 
each has gained most deserved and high praise from others 
and abundant satisfaction to themselves. Wherefore I, feel- 
ing a very great desire for similar results, and leaving alone 
the Heavens as a burthen more suitable for the shoulders of 
Atlas and of Hercules, determined to investigate some small 
portion of this our terrestrial globe ; and not having any 



inclination (knowing myself to be of very slender understand- 
ing) to arrive at my desire by study or conjectures, I 
determined, personally, and with my own eyes, to endeavour 
to ascertain the situations of places, the qualities of peoples, 
the diversities of animals, the varieties of the fruit-bearing 
and odoriferous trees of Egypt, Syria, Arabia Deserta and 
Felix, Persia, India and Ethiopia, remembering well that 
the testimony of one eye-witness is worth more than ten 
heard-says. Having then, by Divine assistance, in part ac- 
complished my object and examined various provinces and 
foreign nations, it appeared to me that I had done nothing if 
I kept hidden within myself the things I had witnessed and 
experienced, instead of communicating them to other studious 
men. Wherefore I bethought myself to give a very faithful 
description of this my voyage, according to my humble 
abilities, thinking thereby to do an action which would be 
agreeable to my readers ; for that, whereas I procured the 
pleasure of seeing new manners and customs by very great 
dangers and insupportable fatigue, they will enjoy the same ad- 
vantage and pleasure, without discomfort or danger, by merely 
reading. Reflecting, then, to whom I might best address 
this my laborious little work, you, Most Illustrious and Most 
Excellent Lady, occurred to me as being a special observer 
of noteworthy things, and a lover of every virtue. Nor did 
my judgment appear to me vain, considering the infused 
learning transferred by the radiant light of that Most 
Illustrious and Excellent Lord the Duke of Urbino your 
Father, being as it were to us a sun of arms and of science. 


I do riot speak of the very Excellent Lord your Brother, 
who (although still a young man) has so distinguished him- 
self in his Latin and Greek studies as to be spoken of as 
almost a Demosthenes and a Cicero. "Wherefore, having 
derived every virtue from such broad and clear streams, you 
cannot do other than take pleasure in honourable works and 
entertain a great desire for them. He who can justly appre- 
ciate them, would willingly go with his corporeal feet where 
he flies with the wings of his mind, remembering that one of 
the praises awarded to the most wise and eloquent Ulysses 
was, that he had seen many customs of men and many 
countries. But as your Ladyship is occupied with the affairs 
of your Most Illustrious Lord and Consort (whom, like 
another Artemisia, you love and respect), and about the dis- 
tinguished family which, with admirable rule, you adorn by 
your graces, I say it will suffice if amongst your other good 
works you will feed your mind with this fruitful, although, 
perhaps, unpolished reading, not acting like many other 
ladies who lend their ears to light songs and vain words, 
taking no account of time, unlike the angelic mind of your 
Ladyship, which allows no moment to pass without some 
good fruit. Your kindness will easily supply all want of 
skill in the connection of the narrative, grasping only the 
truth of the facts. And if these, my labours, should prove 
agreeable to you and meet with your approbation, I shall 
consider that I have received sufficient praise and satisfaction 
for my long wanderings, my rather fearful exile, during 
which I have endured, innumerable times, hunger and 



thirst, cold and heat, war, imprisonment, and an infinite 
number of other dangerous inconveniences, and shall gain 
fresh courage for that other journey which I hope to under- 
take in a short time ; for having examined some parts of the 
countries and islands of the east, south, and west, I am re- 
solved, if it please God, to investigate those of the north. 
And thus, as I do not see that I am fit for any other pursuit, 
to spend in this praiseworthy exercise the remainder of my 
fleeting days. 




The same desire to behold the various kingdoms of the 
world which has urged on others, excited me also to a similar 
enterprise ; and inasmuch as all countries have been very 
much laid open by our people, I deliberated in my own 
mind that I would see those which had been the least 
frequented by the Venetians. Wherefore spreading our sails 
to a favourable wind, and having implored the Divine aid, we 
committed ourselves to the sea. When we came to Alexandria, 
a city of Egypt, I, longing for novelty (as a thirsty man longs 
for fresh water) departed from these places as being well 
known to all, and, entering the Nile, arrived at Cairo. 


On my arrival in Cairo I, who had been previously much 
astonished at the account of its size, came to the conclusion 
that it was not so large as it had been reported to be. But 
its size in circumference is about equal to that of Rome. It 
is true, however, that it contains very many more habita- 
tions than there are in Rome, and that the population is 
larger. The mistake which many have made is this, that 
there are several hamlets outside the walls of Cairo which 
some believed to be within the circuit of Cairo itself; this, 


however, cannot be the case, for they are distant some two 
or three miles, and are distinct villages. 1 I shall not enter 
into any long account of their faith and manners, because 
everyone knows that they are inhabited by Moors 2 and 
Mamelukes. The lord over them is the Grand Sultan, 3 who 
is served by the Mamelukes, and the Mamelukes are lords 
over the Moors. 


I say nothing about the riches and beauty of the afore- 
said Cairo and of the pride of the Mamelukes, because they 
are well known to all our countrymen. I sailed thence into 
Syria ; and first to Baruti, the distance from the one place to 
the other by sea is 500 miles. In that Baruti I remained 
several days. It is a country thickly inhabited by the 
Moors, and is well supplied with everything. The sea 
breaks against the walls, and you must know that the dis- 
trict is not entirely surrounded by walls, but only in some 
parts, that is to say, towards the west and towards the sea. 5 

1 Misr el- 'Ateekah or Old Misr, corrupted by Europeans into " Old 
Cairo," and the large suburb of Boolak, are probably the " distinct vil- 
lages" indicated. 

' 2 The author frecpiently uses this term as laxly as we do that of 
" Arabs," and sometimes as synonymous with " Mussulmans." 

3 As Varthema commenced his travels a.d. 1503, Egypt was still 
under the rule of the Borjeeh or Circassian Mamluks, and the " Grand 
Sultan" of the text must have been Sultan el-Ghoree of that dynasty. 
Contemporaneous with him in Egypt was the Khalifa el-Mustansik 
b'lllah of the 'Abbasieh or Abbaside Caliphs, who, however, had long 
ceased to exercise more than a nominal sovereignty over the country. 

4 Beyroot is still written and pronounced as above by the Levantines 
and Italian residents in Syria. 

b Until very recently Beyroot was completely enclosed on the land 
side by a wall, whereas there is only a small extent of wall " towards the 
sea." Possibly, at the period of our author's visit, some parts of the 


I did not see anything there worthy to be recorded, ex- 
cepting an ancient building, which, they say, was inhabited 
by the daughter of the king when the dragon wanted to 
devour her, and where St. George killed the said dragon. 1 
This ancient building is all in ruins ; and I departed thence, 
and proceeded in the direction of Tripoli in Syria, which is 
two days' journey towards the east. This Tripoli is sub- 
ject to the Grand Sultan, 2 and all are Muhammedans, and the 
said city abounds in everything. And I departed thence 
and went to Aleppo, which is eight days' journey inland, 
which said Aleppo is a very beautiful city, and is under the 
Grand Sultan of Cairo, and is the mart [scala] of Turkey 
and Syria, and they are all Muhammedans. It is a country 
of very great traffic in merchandize, and particularly with 
the Persians and Azamini, 3 who come as far as there. This 

former had been levelled, and were subsequently restored by the Ameer 
Fakhr ed-Din, who repaired and strengthened the fortifications in the 
beginning of the seventeenth century ; and he may have mistaken for a 
wall the numerous ancient columns which form the foundation of the 
quay, and against which the sea frequently beats with great violence. 

1 The legend of St. George and the Dragon has been attached to this 
locality since the Crusades, and the remains of an old brick building, 
situated about two miles from Beyroot, on the road to Jebail, are still 
pointed out as occujjying the exact site of the renowned encounter. 
Varthema describes it as it is now, " an ancient building in ruins," 
though d'Arvieux, in 16G0, speaks of a chapel of St. George in this 
neighbourhood which had been converted into a mosque, and Pococke 
repeats the same in 1738. If a Christian chapel ever existed here, the 
Muhammedans, in converting it into a mosque, would not scruple to 
retain the original dedication, as the JVabi Jergees (the Seer George) is 
regarded as an orthodox saint by all Mussulmans. 

2 Of Cairo, of course, as the whole of Syria at the time was subject to 
the Mamluk sovereign of Egypt. 

3 This is, doubtless, a distorted plural form of ^Ajami, a Persian, the 
Italian initial z being used to express the^' sound of the Arabic, just as 
in the sequel we find " Zida, cioe porto della Meccha," where Juddah 
( Jiddah) is obviously indicated. Also " xii zomate" for xii giornate. 
The phrase " Persians and Azamini," moreover, is not altogether a 
pleonasm ; since the latter term, in the original, has a wide significa- 
tion, and denotes the natives generally of all the countries comprehended 


is the route which is taken to go into Turkey and Syria by 
those who come from Azemia. 


And I departed thence and went towards Damascus, 
which is distant ten short days' journey. Midway there is 
a city which is called Aman, in which there grows a vast 
quantity of cotton, and very good fruit. And near to Da- 
mascus, sixteen miles distant from it, I found another dis- 
trict called Menin, which is situated on the summit of a 
mountain, and is inhabited by Christians of the Greek 
Church, who are subjects of the lord of Damascus. In this 
place there are two very beautiful churches, which are said 
to have been erected by Helena, the mother of Constantine. 
Very excellent fruits grow there, and most especially good 
grapes ; and here also there are very beautiful gardens and 
fountains. I departed thence, and went to the most noble 
city of Damascus. 


Truly it would not be possible to describe the beauty and 
the excellence of this Damascus, in which I resided some 

under the Persian empire. Besides which, the word " 'Ajami" conveys 
the same idea among the people of the East as " Barbarian" did with 
the ancient Greeks, and " Gentile" among the Jews. 

1 The modern town of Hamah, the Hamath of Scripture, the Epi- 
phania of the Greeks and Romans, and the birthplace of Abu'1-Feda, 
the eminent Arabian geographer and historian, which lies midway on 
the caravan route between Aleppo and Damascus, is obviously indicated. 
It is somewhat surprising that Varthema does not mention the river 
Orontes, which bisects the town. 

8 Menin is situated ten miles from Helbon, still famous, as of old, for 
the quality of its grapes. (See Ezek. xviii. 28.) The vine is the chief 


months in order to learn the Moorish language, because 
this city is entirely inhabited by Moors and Mamelukes and 
many Greek Christians. Here I must give an account of 
the government of the lord of the said city, which lord is 
subject to the Great Sultan of Cairo. You must know that 
in the said city of Damascus there is a very beautiful and 
strong castle, which is said to have been built by a Floren- 
tine Mameluke at his own expense, he being lord of the 
said city. And, moreover, in each angle of the said castle, 
the arms of Florence are sculptured in marble. It is sur- 
rounded by very wide fosses, and has four extremely strong 
towers and drawbridges, and powerful and excellent artil- 
lery are constantly mounted there. 1 Fifty Mamelukes, in 
the service of the Grand Sultan, are constantly quartered 
with the governor of the castle. This Florentine was a 
Mameluke of the Grand Sultan ; and it is reported that in 
his time the Sultan was poisoned, and could find no one 
who could relieve him of the said poison, when it pleased 
God that this Florentine should cure him. For this service 
he gave him the said city of Damascus, and thus he came 
to build the castle. Afterwards he died in Damascus ; and 
the people held him in great veneration as a holy man, pos- 
sessing great knowledge, and from that time forward the 

product of the district, which abounds also in fountain-streams tribu- 
tary to the Barada. One of these streams takes its rise at Menin. 
Christians of the orthodox Greek rite are more numerous in this neigh- 
bourhood than in any other part of Syria. 

1 The citadel of Damascus is an extensive quadrangular fortress, with 
towers, surrounded by a deep fosse. I remember noticing several sculp- 
tured escutcheons built into the exterior wall of the city during my visit 
in 1835, when a portion of the same was being demolished by Ibrahim 
Pasha to furnish materials for a military hospital ; but the tradition of 
the Florentine is quite new to me, neither do I find it alluded to by any 
of the older or more recent travellers in Syria. In its present form the 
castle is evidently of Saracenic origin, though its foundations probably 
date from a very early age. There is nothing improbable, however, in 
the story of a renegade Christian having rebuilt or restored it. 


castle has always been in the possession of the Sultan. 
When a new Sultan succeeds to the throne, one of his lords, 
who are called Amirra, 1 says to him : " Lord, I have been 
for so long a time your slave, give me Damascus, and I will 
give you one hundred thousand, or two hundred thousand, 
teraphim 2 of gold." Then the lord grants him this favour. 
But you must know, that if in the course of two years the 
said lord does not send him 25,000 teraphim, he seeks to 
kill him by force of arms, or in some other manner ; but if 
he makes him the said present, he remains in the govern- 
ment. The said lord has always ten or twelve lords and 
barons of the said city with him, and when the Sultan wants 
two or three hundred thousand teraphim from the lords or 
merchants of the said city, who are not treated with justice, 
but whom they vie with each other in oppressing by rob- 
bery and assassination (for the Moors live under the Mame- 
lukes like the lamb under the wolf), the said Sultan sends 
two letters to the governor of the said castle, one of which 
simply enjoins him to bring together in the castle such lords 
or merchants as he may think proper. And when they are 
assembled, the second letter is read, the object of which is 
immediately carried out, whether for good or for evil. And 
in this manner the said lord seeks to obtain money. Some- 
times the said lord becomes so powerful that he will not go 
into the castle ; whereat many barons and merchants, feeling 
themselves in danger, mount their horses and retire towards 
Turkey. 3 We will say no more upon this subject, except- 
ing that the men of the guard of the said castle, in each of 
the four great towers, are always on the watch. They make 

1 Ameer. 

2 In the Third Chapter concerning Damascus, and in some editions, 
this word is spelt " Saraphi" and also "Sarahpi." I take it to be the 
Sherlf or Ashrafi, an old Arabian ducat. 

3 In some editions it is the Lords and Merchants who are said to 
refuse to go into the castle when they have become powerful, and this 
appears V> be the more correct reading. 


no cry during the night, but each has a drum, made in the 
shape of a half-box, 1 upon which they beat vigorously with 
a stick, and each answers the other with these said drums. 
He who delays answering for the space of a pater noster, is 
imprisoned for a year. 


Now that we have seen the customs of the Lord of Da- 
mascus, it is necessary that I should make mention of some 
circumstances relating to the city, which is extremely popu- 
lous and very rich. It is impossible to imagine the richness 
and elegance of the workmanship there. Here you have a 
great abundance of grain and of meat, and the most prolific 
country for fruits that was ever seen, and especially for 
fresh grapes, during all seasons. I will mention the good 
and the bad fruits which grow there. Pomegranates and 
and quinces, good : almonds and large olives, extremely 
good. The most beautiful white and red roses that were 
ever seen. There are also good apples and pears and 
peaches, but with a very bad taste, the reason of which is 
that Damascus abounds much in water. 2 A stream runs 
through the city, and the greater number of the houses have 
very beautiful fountains of mosaic work. The houses are 

1 The buz or small tall, still generally used by the Musahhirs, who 
traverse the streets during the Ramadhan, to announce the hour of the 
Sahoor, or last meal of the early dawn. 

2 It is rather surprising that no mention is made of oranges and apri- 
cots, the former being very plentiful, and the latter by far the most 
abundant produce of the orchards round Damascus, and one of its chief 
articles of export ; but as Varthema left the city early in April, that 
fruit was not in season. 

Roses, from which the rich perfume of the \itar is extracted, are ex- 
tensively cultivated in a part of the great plain about three miles from 
the city. 


dirty externally, but within they are very beautiful, adorned 
with many works of marble and porphyry. 

In this city there are many mosques. One, which is the 
principal, is as large as St. Peter's at Rome. It has no roof 
in the centre, but the surrounding parts are covered in. It 
is reported that they keep there the body of St. Zachariah 
the prophet, and they pay him very great honour. In the 
said mosque there are four principal doors of metal, and 
within there are many fountains. Again, we see where the 
canonica stood, which belonged formerly to the Christians, 
in which canonica there are many ancient works in mosaic. 1 
Again, I saw the place where they report that Christ said 
to St. Paul, " Saule, Saule, cur me persequeris ?" which is 
without the city, about a mile from one of the gates thereof. 
They bury there all the Christians who die in the said city. 
Again, there is that tower in the wall of the district where 
(as they say) St. Paul was imprisoned. The Moors have 
many times rebuilt it, but in the morning it is found broken 
and thrown down, as the angel broke it when he drew St. Paul 
out of the said tower. I also saw the house where (as they 
say) Cain slew Abel his brother, which is a mile without 
the city in the opposite direction, on the side of a hill in a 
large deep valley. 2 We will now turn to the liberty which 
the said Mamelukes enjoy in the said city of Damascus. 

1 The"Masjid Yahya" or " Jamaa Beni Umeyya" (the Temple of 
John or the Mosque of the Omruiades), a part of which is generally sup- 
posed to have formed a Christian church dedicated to St. John the 
Baptist, the son of Zechariah. This is still regarded as the adytum or 
most sacred portion of the building, and is believed by Muhauiinedans 
to contain the head of the aforesaid Apostle. A peristyle, supported on 
splendid Corinthian pillars, surrounds the quadrangular court, in which 
there are several marble fountains for religious ablution. Buckingham, 
like Varthema, speaks of the mosque as having been a church dedicated 
to St. Zechariah. 

2 These and several other absurd local traditions, such as the house 
of Ananias, the grave of the martyr George who assisted St. Paul to 
escape through a window in the wall, and a cleft in the rock, about a 



The Mamelukes are renegade Christians, who have been 
purchased by the said lord. Certain it is that the said 
Mamelukes never lose any time, but are constantly exercis- 
ing themselves either in arms or in letters, in order that 
they may acquire excellence. And you must know that 
every Mameluke, great or little, has for his pay six saraphi 
per month, and his expenses for himself, his horse, and a 
family ; and they have as much more when they are en- 
gaged on any warlike expedition. 1 The said Mamelukes, 
when they go about the city, are always in companies of two 
or three, as it would be a great disgrace if they went alone. 
If they accidentally meet two or three ladies, they possess this 
privilege, or if they do not possess it they take it : they go 
to lay in wait for these ladies in certain places like great inns, 
which are called Chano, 2 and as the said ladies pass before the 

mile from the city, through which the Apostle evaded his pursuers, are 
still current among the monks and Christians at Damascus. 

1 Browne's account of the Mamluks in Egypt in 1722, coincides in 
the main with the foregoing description. " These military slaves are 
imported from Georgia, Circassia, and Mingrelia. A few have been 
prisoners, taken from the Austrians and Russians, who have exchanged 
their religion for an establishment. ..Particular attention is paid to the 
education of these slaves. They are instructed in every exercise of 
agility or strength, and are in general distinguished by the grace and 
beauty of their persons... They have no pay, as they eat at the table in 
the house of their master... Any military officer may purchase a slave, 
who becomes ipso facto a Mamluk. After a proper education, the candi- 
date thus constituted a Mamluk, receives a present of a horse and arms 
from his master, together with a suit of clothes, which is renewed every 
year in the month of Ramadhan." Browne was assured that during 
the eleven years preceding his visit, sixteen thousand white slaves, of 
both sexes, were imported into Egypt. Travels in Africa, Egypt, Syria, 
etc., pp. 53-56, 76. 

" Khans, buildings generally designed for the accommodation of mer- 
chants and their goods. In some instances the principal bazaars are 
held in the khans. 


door each Mameluke takes his lady by the hand, draws her in, 
and docs what he will with her. But the lady resists being 
known, because they all wear the face covered, so that they 
know us, but we do not know them. The Mameluke says 
to her, that he wishes to know who she is, and she replies : 
" Brother, is it not enough that you do with me what you 
will, without desiring to know who I am?" and she entreats 
him so much that he lets her go. And sometimes they 
think that they take the daughter of the lord, when in fact 
they take their own wives ; and this has happened while I 
was there. These ladies go very well clad in silk, and 
over it they wear certain white garments of wool, thin and 
bright like silk, and they all wear white buskins and red or 
purple shoes, and many jewels around their heads, and in 
their ears, and on their hands. These ladies when they are 
married, at their own will and pleasure, that is, when they 
do not wish to remain with their husbands any longer, go to 
the cadi of their faith and cause themselves to be talacare, 1 
that is, to be separated from their husband ; and then they 
take another, and he takes another wife. Although they 
say that the Moors have five or six wives, I for my part 
have never seen any who had more than two or three at the 
most. These Moors for the greater part eat in the streets, 
that is, where the clothes are sold ; they have their food 
cooked and eat it there, and there are very many horses, 
camels, and bufi'alos, and sheep and goats. There is here 
an abundance of good fresh cheese ; and if you wish to pur- 
chase milk, there are forty or fifty goats, which go every 
day through the district, and which have ears more than a 
span in length. The master of these goats takes them up 
into your chamber, even if your house have three stories, and 

1 An Italianized infinitive of the Arabic talak, to divorce. Ac- 
cording to Muhammedan civil law a woman cannot repudiate her hus- 
band against his will, unless it be for some grievous fault or cruelty on 
his part, and even in that case a formal decision of the Kadhi is neces- 
sary to dissolve the union. 


there in your presence he milks as much as you please into 
a handsome tin vessel. 1 And there are many milch goats. 
Here, again, is sold a great quantity of truffles : sometimes 
twenty-five or thirty camels arrive laden with them, and in 
three or four days they are sold. They come from the 
mountains of Armenia and Turkey. 2 The said Moors go 
clothed in certain long and wide garments, without girdles, 
made of silk or cloth, and the greater number wear breeches 
of wool and white shoes. "When a Moor meets a Mameluke, 
although he may be the principal merchant of the place, he 
is obliged to do honour and give place to the Mameluke, 
and if he do not so he is bastinadoed. The Christians have 
there many warehouses, which contain cloths, and silk and 
satin, velvets, and brass, and all merchandize that is re- 
quired ; but they are ill treated. 3 

1 The long-eared goats of Damascus are correctly described, and the 
custom of hawking them about the streets still prevails. 

2 Truffles (Arab. Kama) are found in large quantities, at certain 
seasons of the year, along the banks of the Euphrates and Tigris, and 
are transported by the Bedawin long distances. The price at Mosul 
and Baghdad varies from one to six shillings the 'okkah of four 

3 Until within the last few years Varthema's Moors or Mussulmans at 
Damascus were quite as overbearing in their conduct towards the 
Christians as the Mamluks were in his time. As late as 1835 a haughty 
Seyyed insisted on my descending from the pavement into the street 
while he passed, and he literally foamed at the mouth with rage because 
I declined obeying him. 




The matters relating to Damascus having been here 
described perhaps more diffusely than was necessary, oppor- 
tunity invites me to resume my journey. In 1503, on the 
8th day of April, the caravan being set in order to go to 
Mecca, and I being desirous of beholding various scenes and 
not knowing how to set about it, formed a great friendship 
with the captain of the said Mamelukes of the caravan, who 
was a Christian renegade, so that he clothed me like a 
Mameluke and gave me a good horse, and placed me in com- 
pany with the other Mamelukes, and this was accomplished 
by means of the money and other things which I gave him ; 
and in this manner we set ourselves on the way, and travelled 
three days to a place which is called Mezeribe, 1 and there we 
remained three days, in order that the merchants might 
provide themselves, by purchase, with as many horses as they 
required. In this Mezeribe there is a lord who is named 

1 El-Mczarib, where, according to Burckhardt, the pilgrim caravan 
to Mcccah generally remains encamped for ten days to collect stragglers, 
obtain supplies, and pay the accustomed tribute to the different Arab 
tribes for tho passage of the caravan through the desert. Travels in 
Syria, pp. 240-242. 


Zambei, 1 and he is lord of trie country, that is to say, of the 
Arabians ; which Zambei has three brothers and four male 
children, and he has 40,000 horses, and for his court he has 
10,000 mares. And he has here 800,000 camels, for his 
pasture-ground extends two days' journey. And this lord 
Zambei, when he thinks proper, wages war with the Sultan 
of Cairo, and the Lord* of Damascus and of Jerusalem, and 
sometimes, in harvest time, when they think that he is a 
hundred miles distant, he plans some morning a great in- 
cursion to the granaries of the said city, and finds the grain 
and the barley nicely packed up in sacks, and carries it off. 
Sometimes he runs a whole day and night with his said 
mares without stopping, and when they have arrived at the 
end of their journey they give them camels' milk to drink, 
because it is very refreshing. Truly it appears to me that 
they do not run but that they fly like falcons ; for I have 
been with them, and you must know that they ride, for the 
most part, without saddles, and in their shirts, excepting 
some of their principal men. Their arms consist of a lance 
of Indian cane ten or twelve cubits in length with a piece of 
iron at the end, and when they go on any expedition they 
keep as close together as starlings. The said Arabians are 
very small men, and are of a dark tawny colour, and they 
have a feminine voice, and long, stiff, and black hair. And 
truly these Arabs are in such vast numbers that they cannot 
be counted, and they are constantly fighting amongst them- 
selves. They inhabit the mountain and come down at the 
time when the caravan passes through to go to Mecca, in 
order to lie in wait at the passes for the purpose of robbing 
the said caravan. They carry their wives, children, and all 

1 Burckhardt enables me to identify this with Ziiabi or Ez-Zaabi, the 
patronymic of the principal Arab family in this district. He says: "At 
three hours from Mezarib is the village of Ramtha,...the sheikh of which 
is generally a santon, that dignity being in the family of Ez-Zaabi, 
who possess there a mosque of the same name." — Ibid. Appen- 
dix iii. 


their furniture, and also their houses, upon camels, which 
houses are like the tents of soldiers, and are of black wool 
and of a sad appearance. 1 

On the 11th of April, 2 the said caravan departed from 
Mezeribe ; there were 35,000 camels, about 40,000 persons, 
and we were sixty Mamelukes in guard of the said caravan. 
One third of the Mamelukes went in advance of the caravan 
with the standard, another third in the centre, and the other 
third marched in the rear. You must understand that we 
performed our journey in this wise. From Damascus to 
Mecca is a journey of forty days and forty nights : thus, we 
set out from Mezeribe in the morning and travelled for 
twenty hours. At that point certain signals made by the 
captain were passed from band to band that the whole 
company should stop where they then found themselves, 
and they pass twenty-four hours in unloading, and feeding 
themselves and their camels. And then they make signals, 
and the camels are immediately laden again. And you must 
know that they give the said camels for food only five loaves 
of barley-meal, uncooked, and each of about the size of a 
pomegranate, 3 and then they mount their horses and journey 
all night and all the following day for the said twenty-two 
hours, and then for twenty-four hours do as before. And 
every eight days they find water, that is, by digging in the 
earth or sand ; also, certain wells and cisterns are found, and 
at the end of the eight days they stop for one or two days, 
because the said camels carry as great a burthen as two 

1 A most graphic and correct description of the predatory and warlike 
customs of the desert Arabs, and of their physical and social peculiari- 
ties. The picture is throughout true to the life at the present day. 

2 This is either an error, or Varthema meant thereby to reckon his 
travelling days only ; otherwise, as he left Damascus on the 8th of the 
month, was three days in reaching Mezarib, and remained there another 
three days, the date should be April 14th. 

3 The meal or flour is made into a paste and then formed into a ball. 
Cameleers throughout the East, especially on long journeys, adopt the 
same mode of baiting their animals. 


mules, and they only give the poor animals drink once in 
every three days. When we halted at the said waters we 
always had to fight with a vast number of Arabs, but they 
never killed more than one man and one lady, for such is the 
baseness of their minds, that we sixty Mamelukes were 
sufficient defence against forty or fifty thousand Arabs ; 
for pagans, there are no better people with arms in their 
hands than are the Mamelukes. You must know that I had 
excellent experiences of these Mamelukes during the journey. 
Amongst others, I saw a Mameluke take one of his slaves 
and place a pomegranate on his head, and make him stand 
twelve or fifteen paces distant from him, and at the second 
trial strike off the pomegranate by a shot from a bow. Again, 
I saw another Mameluke, running at full gallop, take off his 
saddle and place it upon his head, and afterwards return it 
to its original place without falling, and always at full gallop. 
Their saddles are made according to our usage. 


And when we had travelled twelve days we found the 
valley of Sodom and Gomorrah. Verily the Scriptures do 
not lie, for one sees how they were destroyed by a miracle 
of God ; and I say that there are three cities which were on 
the top of three mountains, and around them to the height 
of three or four cubits is still seen what appears to be blood, 
like red wax mixed with earth. Of a truth, I believe, 
upon what I have seen, that they were a wicked people, for 
all around the entire country is desert and barren. The 
earth produces no one thing, nor water ; and they lived 
upon manna and were punished, for not acknowledging the 
benefits they received ; and by a miracle everything is still 
seen in ruin. Then we passed that valley, which was at 

c 2 


least twenty miles, and there died there from thirst thirty- 
three persons, and many were buried in the sand who were 
not quite dead, and they left only their faces uncovered. 1 
Afterwards we found a little mountain, near which was a 
well, whereat we were well pleased. We halted upon the 
said mountain. The next day, early in the morning, there 
came 24,000 Arabs, who said that we must pay for their water. 2 
We answered that w T e could not pay, for the water was 
given by God. They began to fight with us, saying that 
we had taken their water. We fortified ourselves, and made 
a wall of our camels, 3 and the merchants stood within the 

1 After twelve days' journeying our traveller must have passed the 
valley of the Dead Sea proper, but being in the neighbourhood it was 
natural that he should refer to the Scriptural narrative of the destruc- 
tion of Sodom and the other cities of the Plain. Besides which, it is 
now ascertained that the depression about the Dead Sea is but a section of 
a continuous valley, extending between Banias, at the foot of Jebel esh- 
Sheikh, and the head of the Gulf of 'Akabah. True, Varthema's route, 
if he followed that of the Hajj at the present day, was about twenty miles 
to the eastward of the Wadi 'Araba (the name which the valley takes to 
the south of Petra) ; but it is not surprising that he should have confounded 
therewith a dreary and difficult pass which branches off from the cen- 
tral chain of mountains, and which is known as the 'Akabet esh-Shami, 
for with that I am disposed to identify his " Valley of Sodom and 
Gomorrah." Burckhardt gives this as the twelfth day's journey of the 
pilgrims from Damascus, and describes it as follows : " The Hadj route, 
as far as Akabet Esh-Shami, is a complete desert on both sides. The 
mountain chain continues about ten hours to the west of the Hadj 
route... Here the Hadj descends a deep chasm, and it takes half an hour 
to reach below... The mountain consists of a red grey sandstone, which 
is used at Damascus for whetstones." [Was it this colour of the geolo- 
gical formation which Varthema's vivid or pious imagination converted 
into " what appeared to be blood, like red wax mixed with earth" 1] — 
Travels in Syria, Appendix iii. 

2 The caravan was now in Edom, traversing a section of the route 
taken by the Israelites when they turned "northward" to "'pass through 
the coast of the children of Esau," with whom they were commanded 
" not to meddle," but peaceably " to pass through the coast," and to 
" buy meat and water of them for money." (See Deut. ii. 3-6.) Payment 
for water is still exacted by the descendants of Esau in the same locality 
at the present day. 

3 A prevailing custom among the Bedawin when defending themselves 


said camels, and we were constantly skirmishing, so that they 
kept us besieged two days and two nights, and things came 
at last to that state, that neither we nor they had any more 
water to drink. They had completely surrounded the 
mountain with people, saying that they would break through 
the caravan. Not being able to continue the fighting, our 
captain consulted with the Moorish merchants and we gave 
them (the Arabs) 1200 ducats of gold. They took the money, 
and then said that 10,000 ducats of gold would not pay for 
their water, and we knew that they wanted something else 
besides money. So our prudent captain arranged with the 
caravan, that all those men who were capable of bearing arms 
should not ride on the camels, aud that each should prepare 
his arms. The morning having come, we put forward all 
the caravan, and we Mamelukes remained behind. We 
were in all three hundred persons, and we soon began 
to fight. One man and one lady were killed by bows on 
our side, and they did us no further harm. \Ve killed of 
them 1600 persons. 1 Nor is it to be wondered at that we 
killed so many of them : the cause was, that they were all 
naked and on horseback, without saddles, so that they had a 
difficulty in turning on their way. 

against an attack. The right fore-leg is first bent at the knee, and firmly 
secured with the leading halter so as effectually to prevent the camel 
rising. The animals are then made to lie down in close contact, their 
mass serving as a rampart, the space between the shoulders as embra- 
sures, and their bodies as rests for the matchlocks of the defenders. 

1 Probably an exaggeration, though Strabo records a battle between 
the Roman army under iElius Gallus and the Arabians of the southern 
part of the Hijaz, with a loss of two only of the former and ten thousand 
of the latter. Lib. xvi. 



At the end of eight days we found a mountain which ap- 
peared to be ten or twelve miles in circumference, in which 

1 This is a most interesting subject, and deserves more than a cursory 
notice. Our traveller describes the locality as being three days' journey 
from El-Medinah, which brings it to about " Hedye," given in Burck- 
hardt's Itinerary as the twenty-fourth halt of the modern Hajj from 
Damascus, and four hours distant from Khaibar, "whither the people of 
the caravan often go to buy provisions." Travels in Syria, Appendix iii. 

Mons. Caussin de Perceval has collected together the various notices 
found in the principal Arabian historians respecting the first Jewish 
colony in the Hijaz, from which it will be seen that Khaibar was one of 
their most important settlements. According to Ibn Khaldoon, the ori- 
ginal immigrants formed part of an army sent by Joshua against the Ama- 
lica (Amalekites), which, after destroying that people, took possession of 
their country, and occupied Yathrib (El-Medinah), Khaibar, and the sur- 
rounding places. 

Others, and among them the author of the Aghdni, make the original 
colonists to have consisted of a large body of troops which Moses, on 
reaching Syria, had despatched against the Amalica, with order to exter- 
minate them utterly; but that having spared the young son of the Ainalek- 
ite king, Arcam, the Israelites refused to receive them on their return 
from the expedition. Whereupon they retraced their way back to the 
Hijaz, and finally settled at Yathrib, Khaibar, and the adjoining 

Caussin de Perceval, in noticing the striking resemblance which this 
narrative bears to the Scriptural account of the Amalekite king Agag, 
whose life was spared by the soldiers of Saul against the positive com- 
mand of the prophet Samuel, remarks that if the Arab tradition is 
founded on any historical truth connecting the fact of the disobedience 
of the Israelitish troops with the establishment of a Jewish colony in 
the Hijaz, it would serve to fix the date of that emigration to the time 
of Saul, or four centuries after Moses. 

Other Arabian historians assert that the emigration did not take place 
till after the fall of Zedekiah, the last king of Judah, and the devasta- 
tion of Judea by the armies of Nebuchadnezzar, when many Jewish 
families sought refuge in the Hijaz. Personal experience enables me to 
add that such also is the prevailing tradition among the Jews of Yemen 
of their original settlement in that country. 

From these various accounts it is natural to infer that the Jewish 


mountain there dwell four or five thousand Jews, who go 
naked, and are in height five or six spans, and have a fe- 

colony in the Hijaz was formed by several successive immigrations in 
very remote times, and that it received new accessions by similar im- 
migrations of a more recent date, one of which, specially noticed by the 
author of the Aghani, may be referred either to the period of the re- 
duction of Judea into a Roman province by Pompey, B.C. 6-1, to the de- 
struction of Jerusalem by Titus, a.d. 70, or to the cruel persecution of 
the Jews under Adrian, a.d. 136. It is, indeed, highly probable that on 
each of those occasions many fugitive Jews from Judea sought an 
asylum with their co-religionists in the Hijaz. 

The existence of a considerable Jewish population in the district in- 
dicated by Varthema at the period of Muhammed is a well-authenticated 
historical fact. His cursory description of the particular locality is 
equally correct ; and the enmity of the resident Jews towards the 
Muhammedans appears to have been inherited by them through many 
generations. Referring to that period, Caussin de Perceval says: "The 
Jewish race was still powerful. They possessed, between three or four 
days' journey from Medinah, a fertile territory, abounding in grain and 
date-trees, and protected by several forts, the principal of which, called 
El-Cammoos, was situated on a mountain difficult of access. The dis- 
trict occupied by these strongholds was denominated Khaibar, a word 
which Arabian authors take to signify a castle. [More probably a con- 
federation or colony, from the Hebrew *")2n (khabar) to be confederated]. 
Its population was composed of different families, which had been esta- 
blished in the country from time immemorial. The Jews of Khaibar 
had manifested an active and implacable hatred towards the Prophet 
and his followers. United by an old alliance with their neighbours the 
Bedawin descendants of Ghatafan, they laboured incessantly to stir up 
the hostility of that and other adjacent tribes against Muhammed." 

In the month of Muharram of the seventh year of the Hijrah (12th 
April — 12th May, a.d. 628) Muhammed led an army in person against 
Khaibar, and after a severe conflict, which lasted for several days, suc- 
ceeded in capturing all the forts in that and the surrounding districts, 
and in reducing the Jews to abject submission. At first, they merely 
begged that their lives might be spared, promising to quit the country 
forthwith ; but they were subsequently permitted to remain as simple 
farmers of the soil, binding themselves to give half of the produce to its 
new Mussulman proprietors. It was expressly stipulated, however, that 
their future expulsion should depend on the will of the Prophet. 

Though it is generally believed that 'Omar, on his succession to the 
Khalifate a.d. 634, availed himself of this proviso to banish the Jews 
from the country, in order to execute an injunction said to have been 


minine voice, and are more black than any other colour. 
They live entirely upon the flesh of sheep, and eat nothing 
else. They are circumcised, and confess that they are Jews; 
and if they can get a Moor into their hands, they skin him 
alive. At the foot of the said mountain we found a tank of 
water, which is water that falls in the rainy season. We 
loaded with the said water 16,000 camels, whereat the Jews 
were ill-pleased ; and they went about that mountain like 
wild goats, and on no account would they descend into the 
plain, because they are mortal enemies of the Moors. At 
the foot of the mountain, by the said water, there were six 
or eight feet of beautiful thornbushes, in which we found 
two turtledoves, which circumstance appeared to us like a 
miracle, inasmuch as we had travelled fifteen days and 

given by Muhammed when dying, that two religions were not to be 
tolerated in Arabia ; nevertheless, it is tolerably certain that they con- 
tinued to occupy the neighbourhood of Khaibar in considerable numbers 
up to a very recent period. As late as 1762, Niebuhr was informed that 
that district was still inhabited by several independent Jewish tribes, who 
had sheikhs of their own like other Arabs. Burckhardt mentions the 
old colony of the Jews at Khaibar, but says that it had disappeared, 
though there still existed an unfounded belief at Meccah and Juddah 
that their descendants still existed there, strictly performing the duties 
of their religion. They seem, indeed, to have become extinct as a separate 
race, for Burton was assured that there is not a single Jewish family now in 
Khaibar, adding : "it is, indeed, the popular boast in El-IIejaz that, with 
the exception of Jeddah (and perhaps Yembo), where the Prophet never 
set his foot, there is not a town in the country harbouring an infidel. This 
lias now become a point of fanatic honour ; but if history may be trusted, 
it has become so only lately." Pilgrimage to Meccah and Bl-Medinah, 
vol. ii. p. 118, note. See also Caussin de Perceval, Histoire des Arabes 
avant V Islamisme, etc., vols. ii. 641-644; iii. 193-201, 444. Niebuhk, 
Description de VArabie, pp. 326, 327. 

Varthema evidently miscalculated the effects of distance in diminish- 
ing objects ; hence, I presume, his fabulous measurement of the Jews at 
five or six spans in height, and his failing to see the scanty cloth round 
their loins, which still constitutes the only garment of the common 
Bedawin of the Hijaz. As to complexion, if those seen by our traveller 
were like the generality of the Jews in Yemen, he aptly describes it as 
" more black than any other colour." In that respect they are not to be 
distinguished from the Arab Bedawin. 


nights and had not met with a single animal or bird. The 
next day we resumed our journey, and in two days time 
arrived at a city which is called Medinathalnabi. 1 Near 
that city, at a distance of four miles, we found a well, by 
which the caravan halted for a day, and at this well each 
person washed himself, and put on clean linen to go into 
the said city, which contains about three hundred hearths, 
and is surrounded by walls made of earth. 2 The houses 
within are constructed with stone walls. The country 
around the said city lies under the curse of God, for the 
land is barren, with the exception that about two stones' 
cast, outside the city, there are about fifty or sixty feet of 
palmtrees in a garden, 3 at the end of which there is a certain 
conduit of water, which descends at least twenty-four steps, 
of which water the caravan takes possession when it arrives 
there. 4 Now, some who say that the body of Mahomet is 
suspended in the air at Mecca must be reproved ; I say that 
it is not true. I have seen his sepulchre in this city, Medi- 
nathalnabi, in which we remained three days, and wished 
to see everything. 5 The first day we went into the city, at 
the entrance by the door of their mosque, and each of us, 
small or great, was obliged to be accompanied by some per- 

1 Medinat en-Nabi, the City of the Prophet. 

2 These earthen fortifications, according to Burton, were built by 
order of Kasim el Daulat el Ghori. The wall is now of stone, " well- 
built of granite and lava blocks, in regular layers, cemented with lime." 

3 "This alludes to the gardens of Kuba. The number of date-trees is 
now greatly increased." Bukton, ut supra. 

4 Burckhardt, in his plan of El-Medinah, marks these " steps leading 
down to the canal in different parts of the town." Burton supposes the 
water to come from a spring in the date-groves of Kuba. " It flows 
down a subterranean canal, about thirty feet below the surface. In 
some places the water is exposed to the air, and steps lead to it for the 
convenience of the inhabitants." 

3 This absurd story, so long current in Christendom, but utterly un- 
known to Mussulmans, is supposed by Niebuhr to have originated from 
the position, one above the other, which the three enshrined tombs are 
represented as occupying in the rude drawings of the mosque made by 
native artists. 


son, 1 who took us by the hand, and led us where Mahomet 
was buried. 


The mosque is made square in this manner : being about 
one hundred paces long, and eighty wide, and it has around 
it two doors on three sides, and the roof made arched, and 
there are more than 400 columns made of burnt stone, all 
whitened, and there are about 3,000 lighted lamps burning 
on one side of the arches. 2 On the right hand, at the head 
of the mosque, there is a square tower, about five paces 
on every side, which tower has a cloth of silk around 
it. At the distance of two paces from the said tower 
there is a very beautiful grating of metal, where per- 
sons stand to see the said tower ; and at one side, on 
the left, there is a little door which leads you to the said 
tower, and in the said tower there is another little door, and 
by one of the doors there are about twenty books, and on the 
other side there are twenty-five books, which are those of Ma- 
homet and of his Companions, which books declare his life 
and the commandments of his sect. 3 Within the said door 

1 A guide, called Dal'll or Muzawwir. 

2 Burckkardt makes the dimensions 165 paces in length by 130 in 
breadth. Burton calls it "a parallelogram about 420 feet in length by 
340 broad." The former says : "It forms an open square, surrounded on 
all sides by covered colonnades, with a small building in the centre of 

the square The columns are of stone ; but being plastered white it 

is difficult to decide what species The roof of the colonnade consists 

of a number of small domes." The latter styles it " a hypsethral build- 
ing with a spacious central area, called El Sahn, El Ilosh, El Haswah, 
or El Ramlah, surrounded by a peristyle with numerous rows of pillars, 
like the colonnades of an Italian monastery. Their arcades, or porticoes, 
are llat-ceilinged, domed above with the small ' Media Naranja,' or half- 
orange cupola of Spain." 

3 " Near the south-east corner stands the famous tomb, so detached 


there is a sepulchre, that is, a pit under ground, wherein 
was placed Mahomet, also Haly, and Babacher, and Oth- 
nian, and Aumar, and Fatoma. Mahomet was captain, and 
he was an Arab. Haly was son-in-law of Mahomet, that is, 
he was the husband of Fatoma, who was the daughter of 
Mahomet. 1 Babacher was he of whom we should say that 

from the walls of the inosque as to leave between it and the south wall 
a space of about twenty-five feet, and fifteen feet between it and the 
east wall. The enclosure [Varthema's ' tower'] forms an irregular 
square of about twenty paces, in the midst of the colonnade, several of 
its pillars being included within it. It is an iron railing painted green 
...the railing is of good workmanship, in imitation of filagree, and is 
interwoven with open-work inscriptions of yellow bronze... What appears 
of the interior is merely a curtain carried round on all sides, resembling 
a bed, which is of the same height as the railing, and fills nearly the 
whole space. ..This veil is a rich silk brocade of various colours, inter- 
woven with silver flowers and arabesques. A band of inscriptions in 
gold characters runs across the middle." — Bukckhardt. 

" The Hujrah, or Chamber, as it is called, from the circumstance of its 
having been Ayisha's room, is an irregular square of from fifty to fifty- 
five feet in the south-east corner of the building, and separated on all 
sides from the walls of the mosque by a passage about twenty-six feet 
broad on the south side, and twenty on the eastern... Inside there are, 
or are supposed to be, three tombs facing the south, surrounded by stone 
walls, or, as others say, by strong planking. Whatever this material may 
be, it is hung outside with a curtain, somewhat like a large four-post bed. 
The outer railing is separated by a dark narrow passage from the inner 
one, which it surrounds, and is of iron filagree, painted of a vivid grass 
green, whilst carefully inserted in the verdure, and doubly bright by 
contrast, is the gilt or burnished brass work forming the long and grace- 
ful letters of the Suls character, and disposed into the Moslem creed, 
the profession of unity, and similar religious sentences. This fence has 
four gates. ..they are constantly kept closed, except the fourth." — 

The foregoing extracts prove the remarkable correctness of Varthema's 
brief description of this mosque. Neither of the two enterprising tra- 
vellers, however, throws any light on the books mentioned by him as ex- 
isting in the vicinity of the Hujrah. The mosque library, according 
to Burton, is now kept in large chests near the Bab el Salam. 

1 Muhammed, 'Ali, Abubekr, 'Othman, 'Omar, and Fatimah. Here 
Varthema is in error, for it has never been believed by Mussulmans 
that either 'Ali or 'Othman was buried in the Prophet's mosque. 

Burton says : " The sepulchre or cenotaph of Fatimah is outside the 


he was cardinal, and wanted to be pope. 1 Othman was one 
of his captains. Aumar was another of his captains. And 
these said books treat about each of his people, that is, of 
the said captains ; and on this account it is that this canaille 
cut each other to pieces, for some wish to act according to 
the commandments of one, and some of another, and thus 
they do not know how to make up their minds ; and they 
kill each other like beasts about these heresies, for they are 
all false. 


In order to explain the sect of Mahomet, you must know 
that over the said tower there is a cupola, in which you can 
walk round the top, that is, outside. 2 You must understand 

enceinte and the curtain which surrounds her father's remains." Burck- 
hardt describes it thus : " Near the curtain of the Ilejrah [Hujrah], but 
separated from it, though within the precincts of the railing, which 
here, to admit it, deviates a little from its square shape, is the tomb of 
Sitna Fatima, the daughter of Mohammed and wife of Ali. But some 
difference of opinion exists whether her remains actually rest here, or 
in the burial-ground called Bakya, beyond the town." 

1 I know of no passage in Abubekr's life which merits this remark. 
He was throughout the firm ally of Muhammed, and on the death of 
the latter proposed two candidates, 'Omar and Abu-'Obeidah, as most 
worthy to succeed him. It was mainly through the intervention of 
'Omar, who recognized his superior claims as the special favourite of the 
Prophet, as his sole companion in the cave at Thor, and as having been 
designated by Muhammed to preside at the public prayers when he saw 
his end approaching, that the dignity of being his first successor was 
accorded to the aged Abubekr. 

2 The dome over the Hujrah, or Chamber, containing Muhammed's 
tomb. " Above the hujrah is the green dome, surmounted outside by a 
large gilt crescent springing from a series of globes. The glowing imagi- 
nations of the Moslems crown this gem of the building with a pillar of 
heavenly light, which directs from three days' distance the pilgrims' 
steps towards El-Medinah." — Burton, Pilgrimage (o El-Medinah and 
Meccah, vol. ii. pp. 73, 74. 


the trick they played off upon the whole caravan the first 
evening we arrived at the tomb of Mahomet. Our captain 
sent for the superior of the said mosque, to whom he said : 
that he should show him the body of Nabi — this Nabi 
means the Prophet Mahomet — that he would give him three 
thousand seraphim of gold ; and that he had neither father 
nor mother, nor brothers nor sisters, nor wife nor children, 
neither had he come to purchase spices or jewels, but that 
he had come to save his soul, and to see the body of the 
Prophet. Then the superior answered him with great vio- 
lence, and rage, and pride, saying : " How do those eyes of 
yours, which have done so much evil in the world, desire 
to see him for whom God has created the heavens and the 
earth !" Then answered our captain : " Sidi intecate el 
melie ;" that is to say, Sir, you say true ; l but do me a fa- 
vour, let me see the body of the Prophet, and immediately 
that I have seen it, I will pull out my eyes for the love of 
him. And Sidi 3 answered : " O Sir, I will tell you the truth. 
It is true that our Prophet wished to die here, in order to 
set us a good example ; for he could well have died at 
Mecca had he so willed, but he desired to exercise poverty 
for our instruction ; and as soon as he was dead, he was 
carried at once into heaven by the angels, and he says that 
he is equal with God." Our captain said to him : " Eise 
Hebene Marian phion ?" that is, Jesus Christ the son of 
Mary, where is he ? The Sidi answered : " Azafel al Nabi," 
that is, at the feet of Mahomet. 3 Our captain answered : 

1 Sidi, anta tahki el-melieh. Sir, you say well. I shall correct the 
orthography and mistranslations of Vartherna's romanized Arabic, 
preserving the barbarisms of the original. The orthography varies in 
different editions, but in all it is execrably bad. 

2 Meaning the JShenf belonging to the mosque. 

3 Isa ibn Mariam fain hu? Jesus, the Son of Mary, where is He? 
As/el en-Nabi. Below (or under) the Prophet. Burton, having 
before him only the translation of these words, as he found it, unaccom- 
panied by the Arabic, in Eden's History of Travels, supposes the reply 


" Besbes, hiosi," 1 that is, enough, enough ! I will not know 
more. Then the captain came out and said to us: " See 
where I wanted to throw away three thousand seraphim !" 
In the night time, at three o'clock, there came into the camp 
about ten or twelve of those old men of that sect, for the 
caravan was encamped near the gate, two stones' cast off, 
and these old men began to cry out, some in one part and 
some in another : " Lei la illala, Mahometh resullala ; lam 
Nabi, hia la, hia resullala, stasforla !" that is, God pardon 
me. " Leilla illala," means, God was, God will be ; and " Ma- 
hometh resullala" is, Mahomet, the messenger of God, will 
rise again ; " lam Nabi" signifies, O Prophet ! O God ! " hia 
resullala" means, Mahomet will rise again; " stasforla" sig- 
nifies, God pardon me. 2 Our captain and we, hearing this 
noise, immediately ran with our arms in our hands, thinking 
they were Arabs who wanted to rob the caravan, saying to 
them : " What is this you are crying out ?" for they made 
just such a noise as is heard amongst us Christians when a 
saint performs a miracle. These old men answered : " Inte 
mar abser miri igimen elbeit el Naby uramen il sama?" 
that is, Do you not see the brilliant light which comes out 
of the sepulchre of the Prophet ? 3 Our captain said : " I do 

to refer to the burial-place of Christ, and justly remarks that in that 
sense it is incorrect, since no Moslem ever believed that Christ left his 
body in this world. My own impression is, that it merely conveys the 
speaker's belief of Christ's inferiority to Muhammed, either locally or in 
rank, when the question was propounded. 

1 Bass, lass. Enough, enough; but I cannot decipher the "hiosi," 
unless it is a corruption of the vulgar mush 'awaz, I don't want [any 

9 La ilah ilia Allah ; Muhammed RasM Allah. Ya Nabi ! Hayya 
Allah ! Ilayya Rasill Allah ! Istaahfir lana ! There is no god but 
God. Muhammed is the Prophet of God. Prophet ! Salute God ! 
Salute the Prophet ! We invoke forgiveness ! 

3 Antamatabsar en-nur [alladhi] yaji min belt en-Nabi warn min es- 
sama ? Do you not see the splendour proceeding from the house of 
the Prophet beyond the heavens'? The superstition that a super- 
natural light issues from Muhammed's tomb -is still popular among 
pious Moslems. 


not see anything ;" and he asked all of us if we had seen 
anything, and we answered : c< No." One of the old men 
replied : " Are you slaves ?" that is, Mamelukes. The cap- 
tain said : " Yes, they were slaves." The old man answered : 
" Oh, sirs ! you cannot see these celestial things because 
you are not well confirmed in our faith." Our captain 
replied : " Lami ianon ancati telethe elphi seraphi : vualla 
anemaiati chelp menelchelp," which means, " Oh, fools, I 
was willing to give you three thousand ducats, by God, but 
I won't give you them now, you dogs, sons of dogs." 1 You 
must know that these lights were certain artificial fires which 
they had cunningly lighted on the top of the said tower to 
make us believe that they were lights which issued from 
the sepulchre of Mahomet ; wherefore our captain ordered 
that none of us should on any account enter the said mosque. 
And you must know (I tell it you for a truth) there is no 
coffin of iron or steel, nor loadstone, nor any mountain within 
four miles. We remained there three days in order to give 
rest to the camels. The people of the said city supply 
themselves with the provisions which come from Arabia 
Felix, and from Cairo, and from Ethiopia by sea, for from 
thence to the sea is four days' journey. 


Now we being tired of these things and vanities of 
Mahomet, prepared ourselves to pass onwards, and with our 
pilots, great observers of their compasses and charts, 2 neces- 

1 Ya majnun ! ana ''ailti thalath elf ashrafi ! W Allah, ana ma 
'aati. Kelb bin el -kelb. You fool ! I give three thousand ducats ! By 
God, I will not give. You dog, son of a dog. 

2 E con nostri Piloti delle sue bussole e carte al corso del mare ne- 
cessarie grandi obseruatori coininciauio a caminare per rnezo giorno." 
The passage is obscure. If it means, as I conclude it does from a similar 
statement a few lines farther on, that the guides in the Ilijaz used such 



sary when traversing the sea, began the journey southwards, 
and we found a very fine well in which there was a great 
quantity of water, which well, the Moors say, was made by 
St. Mark the Evangelist, by a miracle of God, on account of 
the want of water which prevails in that country. This well 
was dry at our departure. 1 [I must not forget to mention our 

instruments in order to direct their course between El-Medinah and 
Meccah, it is unquestionably absurd. Our traveller may have been led 
into the erroneous inference by seeing the leaders of the caravan consult- 
ing small portable compasses, called Kiblah-ndmeh, to ascertain the true 
K'lhlah, or prescribed point to which they should turn during prayer. 
Nevertheless, the comparison which he here institutes leads to the con- 
jecture that the Arabs who navigated the Red Sea at this period, one 
year at least before the appearance of the Portuguese in that cpuarter, 
were in possession of the mariner's chart and compass, which he expressly 
tells us in a later chapter were used on board the vessels in which he 
sailed from Borneo to Java. It is to be regretted that Varthema did 
not record the name by which the native pilots designated the compass. 
That of Bushla or Bnsla, from the Italian Bussola, though common 
among Arab sailors in the Mediterranean, is very seldom used in the 
eastern seas. Da'irah and Beit el-Ibrah (the Circle, or House of the 
Needle), are the ordinary appellatives in the Red Sea. In the Persian 
Gulf, Kiblah-ndmeh is in more general use. 

1 There are four roads leading from El-Medinah to Meccah ; but it is 
impossible, from Varthema's brief description, to decide with certainty 
which was taken by his caravan. " St. Mark's well " affords no clue, as 
the name of that Apostle is utterly unknown to the Mussulmans of the 
llijaz at the present day ; nevertheless, its occurrence in connexion with 
this locality is somewhat remarkable. Has the tradition a much earlier 
origin ? Eusebius makes St. Mark the first Bishop of Alexandria, and the 
patriarchal see of Egypt has borne that title ever since. Ecclesiastical 
historians further assert that one Pantaenus, a teacher of divinity, was 
sent by Julianus, bishop of Alexandria, to preach the Gospel in Arabia 
towards the end of the second century. Ibn Khaldun and the author 
of the Aghdni state that several of the Arab tribes between Egypt and 
Palestine professed Christianity at the time of Muhammed ; and the 
destruction of an Abyssinian army before Meccah, a.d. 570, is a well 
authenticated historical fact. Now, as the first introduction of Christ- 
ianity into Arabia is referrible to the zeal of the patriarchal see of St. 
Mark in Egypt, to which the Abyssinian church has always been eccle- 
siastically subject, it is just possible that the occurrence of the Apostle's 
name, as mentioned by Varthema, may be a traditional relic handed 
down from the earliest Christians in the Hijaz. 


meeting with the sea of sand, which we left before we found 
the mountain of the Jews, and through which we travelled 
five days and five nights. 1 Now you must understand all 
about this. This is a very large level plain, which is full of 
white sand as fine as meal, where, if unfortunately the wind 
should blow from the south as you come from the north, all 
would be dead men, and although we had the wind with us 
we could not see each other at a distance of ten paces. The 
men ride on camels in certain wooden boxes, 2 in which they 
sleep and eat, and the pilots go in advance with their com- 
passes as they do at sea. And here many died from thirst, 
and a great many died because when they dug and found 
water they drank so much that they burst ; and here 
mummies are made. 3 When the wind blows from the north 
this sand collects against a very large mountain, which is a spur 

1 Burton remarks on this chapter generally, that " It is impossible 
to distinguish from this description the route taken by the Damascus 
caravan in 1503. Of one thing only we may be certain, namely, that 
between El-Medinah and Meccah there are no ' seas of sand.' " Ibid. 
p. 358. I am of opinion that the passage which I have placed be- 
tween brackets is retrospective, and refers to a part of the journey be- 
tween Damascus and El-Medinah, for Varthema describes his having 
left the sea of sand before he came to the Mountain of the Jews. 
Burckhardt's brief description of the stages on the present Hajj route 
does not enable me to identify the precise locality ; but I think it 
should be looked for between El-Akhdar, the sixteenth stage from Da- 
mascus, and Hedye or Khaibar (the Mountain of the Jews), three days 
from El-Medinah ; for in a note attached to El-Akhdar, in his enume- 
ration of the caravan halts, Burckhardt says : " Two or three hundred 
years ago the Hadj route went to the east of the present route, and 
it is even now called Darb esh-Sharki, the Eastern Road." 

2 The Shugduf, the Taktraivan, the Shibriyah, and the Mahaffah, 
vehicles of different construction, borne by camels, and used by the 
more wealthy pilgrims in making the Hajj. 

3 " Wonderful tales are still told about these same mummies. I was 
assured by an Arabian physician, that he had broken a fowl's leg, and 
bound it tightly with a cloth containing man's dried flesh, which caused 
the bird to walk about, with a sound shank, on the second day." — 
Burton, ibid. p. 361, n. 


of Mount Sinai. 1 When wc were at the top of the said moun- 
tain we found a door [or doorway] of the said mountain made 
by the hand of man. On the left side upon the top of the said 
mountain there is a grotto to which there is a door of iron. 
Some say that Mahomet stopped there to pray. At this door 

' Burton, having inferred that Varthema was describing a part of 
the route between El-Medinah and Meccah, supposes this to be Jebel 
Warkan, on the sea-route to the latter place. For the reason already 
given, I prefer identifying it with the mountains in the vicinity of 
Hedjer (more correctly, El-IIijr), which, though with great latitude, may 
be styled an offshoot of Sinai. I am confirmed in this opinion by our 
author's somewhat romantic account of the ancient remains existing 
there, and the traditions with which they are associated. Burckhardt's 
description of them is as follows : " The most interesting spot on the 
caravan route between Damascus and Medinah, within the limits of 
Arabia, appears to be Hedjer, or, as it is sometimes called, Medayen 
Saleh, seven days north of Medinah. This place, according to many 
passages of the Koran (which has a chapter entitled Hedjer), was 
inhabited by a gigantic race of men, called Beni Thamoud, whose 
dwellings were destroyed because they refused to obey the admoni- 
tions of the prophet Saleh. In circumference, Hedjer extends several 
miles ; the soil is fertile, watered by many wells, or running streams. 
...An inconsiderable mountain bounds this fertile plain on the west, 
at about four miles' distance from the ground where the pilgrims' 
caravan usually encamps. In that mountain are large caves cut out 
of the rock, with sculptured figures of men and various animals, small 
pillars on both sides of the entrances, and, if I may believe the Be- 
douins, numerous sculptures over the doors." — Travels in Syria, Ap- 
pendix vii. According to the Koran, (chap, vii.), the destruction of 
the Thamudites was accompanied by " a terrible noise from heaven," 
and Muhammed's own conduct, on the occasion of his expedition against 
El-IIijr, shortly after his destruction of the Jews at Khaibar, served to 
perpetuate among his followers a dread of that signal example of the 
Divine vengeance, for he refused to let them drink at one of the wells 
in the valley, bidding them flee the accursed spot. The vivid imagina- 
tion of pious Moslems still attributes supernatural noises, "like violent 
and repeated claps of thunder," to the desolate abode of those ancient 
Troglodytes, and it may fairly be presumed that these and similar tra- 
ditions, and the fact of a chapter of the Koran being entitled " El-Hijr," 
— subjects which his Muhammedan companions would freely discuss 
while in that vicinity, — gave rise to the fable with which this part of 
Varthema's narrative is disfigured. 


a very great noise is heard. We passed this said mountain 
with great danger, so much so that we thought we should 
never arrive at this place.] Then we departed from the said 
well and travelled for ten days, and twice we fought with 
50,000 Arabs, till at length we arrived at Mecca, and there 
was a very great war, one brother with another, for there 
are four brothers, and they fought to be Lords of Mecca. 1 


We will now speak of the very noble city of Mecca, what 
it is, its state, and who governs it. The city is most beauti- 
ful, and is very well inhabited, and contains about 6,000 
families. The houses are extremely good, like our own, and 
there are houses worth three or four thousand ducats each. 
This city is not surrounded by walls. 2 A quarter of a mile 
distant from the city we found a mountain where there was 
a road cut by human labour. 3 And then we descended into 

1 The remarkable coincidence of this casual remark with the historical 
record of the period has been fully noticed in the Introduction. 

a " The city is open on every side ; but the neighbouring mountains, 
if properly defended, would form a barrier of considerable strength.... 
The mode of building is the same as that adopted at Djidda, with the 
addition of windows looking towards the street : of these many project 
from the wall, and have their framework elaborately carved or gaudily 
painted. Before them hang blinds made of slight reeds... Every house 
has its terrace." — Burckhaudt's Travels in Arabia, vol. i. pp. 189, 190. 

3 Burton identifies this with the Saniyah Kuda, a pass opening upon 
the Meccah plain. It is, doubtless, the same as that described by Burck- 
hardt in the following extract : " Opposite to this building [a house 
belonging to the Sherif Ghaleb], a paved causeway leads towards 
the western hills, through which is an opening that seems artificial. 
El-Azraki applies the name of Jebel el-Hazna to this part of the moun- 
tain, and says that the road was cut through the rock by Yahia ibn 
Khold ibn Barmak. On the other side of the opening, the road descends 
into the plain of Sheikh Mahmoud, so named from the tomb of a saint, 
round which the Syrian pilgrims generally encamp." — Hid. p. 234. 


the plain. The walls of the said city are the mountains, and 
it has four entrances. The governor of this city is a Sultan, 
that is, one of the four brothers, and is of the race of 
Mahomet, 1 and is subject to the Grand Sultan of Cairo. His 
three brothers are always at war with him. On the 18th 
of May we entered into the said city of Mecca ; we entered 
from the north, and afterwards we descended into the plain. 
On the side towards the south there are two mountains 
which almost touch each other, where is the pass to go to 
the gate of Mecca. On the other side, where the sun rises, 
there is another mountain pass, like a valley, 2 through which 
is the road to the mountain where they celebrate the sacrifice 
of Abraham and Isaac, which mountain is distant from the 
said city about eight or ten miles. 3 The height of this 
mountain is two or three casts of a stone by hand, and it is 
of some kind of stone, not marble, but of another colour. 
On the top of this said mountain there is a mosque accord- 
ing to their custom, which has three doors. At the foot of 
the said mountain there are two very beautiful reservoirs of 
water. One is for the caravan from Cairo, and the other 
for the caravan from Damascus ; which water is collected 
there from the rain and comes from a great distance. 4 Now, 

1 A Sherif. " In Arabia the Sherif is the descendant of Hasan through 
his two sons, Zaid and Hasan el-Musanna." — Burton's Pilgrimage to 
el-Medinah, etc. Vol. ii. p. 257, n. 

2 " This is the open ground leading to the Muna Pass." — Ibid. p. 
362, n. 

3 " An error. The sacrifice is performed at Muna, not at Arafat, the 
mountain here alluded to." — Ibid. p. 362, n. 

4 Burckkardt's account of Arafat reads like an amplification of Var- 
thema's briefer description. " This granite hill, which is called Jebel 
cr-Rahme, rises on the north-east side of the plain, close to the moun- 
tains which encompass it, but separated from them by a rocky valley. 
It is about a mile or a mile and a half in circuit : its sides are sloping, 
and its summit is nearly two hundred feet above the level of the plain... 
On the summit is shown the place where Mohammed used to take his 
station during the hadj ; a small chapel [Varthema's 'mosque'?] for- 
merly stood over it, but it was destroyed by the Wahabys... Several large 


let us return to the city. At the proper time we will speak 
of the sacrifice which they make at the foot of the said 
mountain. When we entered into the said city we found 
the caravan from Cairo, which had arrived eight days before 
us, because they had not travelled by the same route as our- 
selves. In the said caravan there were sixty-four thousand 
camels and one hundred Mamelukes. You must know that, 
in my opinion, the curse of God has been laid upon the said 
city, for the country produces neither grass nor trees, nor 
any one thing. 1 And they suffer from so great a dearth of 
water, that if every one were to drink as much as he might 
wish, four qaattrini worth of water daily would not suffice 
them. 2 I will tell you in what manner they live. A great part 
of their provisions comes from Cairo, that is, from the Red 
Sea. There is a port called Zida [Juddah], which is distant 
from the said city forty miles. A great quantity of food also 
comes there from Arabia Felix, and also a great part comes 
from Ethiopia. We found a great number of pilgrims, of whom 

reservoirs lined with stone are dispersed over the plain : two or three are 
close to the foot of Arafat... They are filled from the same fine acqueduct 
which supplies Mecca, and the head of which is about one hour and a 
half distant in the eastern mountains." — Travels in Arabia, vol. i. pp. 
40-42. Burton says the Meccans have a tradition that the water comes 
from Baghdad. 

1 " Moslems who are disposed to be facetious on serious subjects often 
remark, that it is a mystery why Allah should have built his house in a 
spot so barren and desolate." — Burton, Ibid. Vol. ii. p. 3G3, n. 

2 " With respect to water, Mecca is not much better provided than 
Djiddah. There are but few cisterns for collecting rain, and the well 
water is so brackish, that it is used only for culinary purposes... The 
famous well of Zemzem, in the Great Mosque, is indeed sufficiently 
copious to supply the whole town ; but, however holy, its water is heavy 
to the taste, and impedes digestion... The best water in Mecca is brought 
from the vicinity of Arafat, six or seven hours distant. The supply 
which it affords in ordinary times is barely sufficient for the use of the 
inhabitants, and during the pilgrimage sweet water becomes an absolute 
scarcity. A small skin of water, two of which skins a person may carry, 
being then often sold for one shilling, a very high price among Arabs." 
— Bukckhakdt's, Travels in Syria, vol. i. pp. 193-195. 


some came from Ethiopia, some from India Major, some 
from India Minor, some from Persia, and some from Syria. 
Truly I never saw so many people collected in one spot as 
during the twenty days I remained there. Of these people 
some had come for the purposes of trade, and some on 
pilgrimage for their pardon, in which pardon you shall 
understand what they do. 


First we will speak of the merchandize, which comes 
from many parts. From India Major there come a great 
many jewels and all sorts of spices, and part comes from 
Ethiopia; and there also comes from India Major, from a 
city called Bangchella, 1 a very large quantity of stuffs of 
cotton and of silk, so that in this city there is carried on a 
very extensive traffic of merchandize, that is, of jewels, 
spices of every kind in abundance, cotton in large quantites, 
wax and odoriferous substances in the greatest abundance. 


Now let us turn to the pardoning of the said pilgrims. 
In the midst of the said city there is a very beautiful temple, 
similar to the Colosseum of Rome, but not made of such 
large stones, but of burnt bricks, and it is round in the same 
manner ; it has ninety or one hundred doors around it, and is 
arched, and has many of these doors. 2 On entering the said 

1 Bengal, pronounced Bangala by the Arabs(f) 

2 Joseph Pitts, who visited Meccah in 1608, describes the Great 
Mosque as having " about forty-two doors to enter into it, — not so much, 
I think, for necessity, as figure ; for in some places they are close by 
one another." Ali Bey says : " The temple has nineteen gates with 


temple you descend ten or twelve steps of marble, and here 
and there about the said entrance there stand men who sell 
jewels, and nothing else. And when you have descended 
the said steps you find the said temple all around, and every- 
thing, that is, the walls, covered with gold. 1 And under the 
said arches there stand about 4,000 or 5,000 persons, men 
and women, which persons sell all kinds of* odoriferous 
things; the greater part are powders for preserving human 
bodies, 2 because pagans come there from all parts of the 
world. Truly, it would not be possible to describe the 
sweetness and the odours which are smelt within this temple. 
It appears like a spicery full of musk, and of other most 
delicious odours. On the 23rd of May the said pardon 
commences in the above-mentioned temple. The pardon is 
this : Within the said temple, and uncovered, and in the 
centre, there is a tower, the size of which is about five 
or six paces on every side, 3 around which tower there is 

thirty-eight arches." Burekhardt, in 1814 : " The gates of the mosque 
are nineteen in number, and are distributed about without any order of 
symmetry. As each gate consists of two or three arches or divisions, 
separated by narrow walls, those divisions are counted in the enumera- 
tion of the gates leading into the Kaabah, and thus make up the number 
thirty-nine." Burton says : " The principal gates arc seventeen in num- 
ber. In the old building they were more numerous." The latter fact, 
coupled with Burckhardt's description of the double and triple division 
in each gate, may account for Varthema's approximate estimate, and 
might have spared hiui Burton's remark thereon, who calls it " a pro- 
digious exaggeration." 

1 " Seven [or, according to Burton, eight] paved causeways lead from 
the colonnades towards the Kaabah or Holy House in the centre... The 
whole area of the moscpue is on a lower level than any of the streets sur- 
rounding it. There is a descent of eight or ten steps from the gate on 
the north side into the platform of the colonnade, and of three or four 
steps from the gate on the south side." — Burckhardt's Travels in 
Arabia, vol. i. p. 247. 

* " I saw nothing of the kind, though constantly in the Ilaram at 
Meccah." — Burton. 

3 The Kaabah is here described. Burckhardt calls it "an oblong 
massive structure 18 paces in length, 14 in breadth, and from 35 to 40 


a cloth of black silk. 1 And there is a door all of silver, 
of the height of a man, by which you enter into the said 
tower. On each side of the door there is a jar, which 
they say is full of balsam, and which is ' shown on the 
day of Pentecost. 2 And they say that that balsam is part of 
the treasures of the Sultan. On each side of the said tower 
there is a large ring at the corner. 3 On the 24th of May all 
the people begin, before day, to go seven times around the 
said tower, always touching and kissing each corner. 4 And 
at about ten or twelve paces distant from the said tower 
there is another tower, like one of your chapels, with three 
or four doors. In the centre of the said tower there is a 
very beautiful well, which is seventy fathoms deep, and the 
water is brackish. 5 At this well there stand six or eight 

feet in height." Burton says it is 18 paces in breadth, and 22 in length ; 
but as the Kaabah was entirely rebuilt as it now stands in 1627, these 
measurements afford no test of the accuracy of Varthema's statement. 

1 The Kisivah, or curtain covering the Kaabah. Burton says that the 
material now is a mixture of silk and cotton. It is renewed annually at 
the time of the Hajj. 

2 The door of the present Kaabah, according to Burckhardt, is " wholly 
coated with silver, and has several gilt ornaments ; upon its threshold 
are placed every night various small lighted wax candles, and perfuming 
pans filled with musk, aloe-wood, etc." 

Giovanni Finati (1814) restricts the opening of the Kaabah to once 
a year. Burckhardt says it is opened two or three times a year. Burton, 
that " the house may now be entered ten or twelve times a year gratis ; 
and by pilgrims, as often as they can collect, amongst parties, a sum 
sufficient to tempt the guardians' cupidity." 

Varthema was probably thinking of Good Friday and the Easter 
which follows, and connecting in his mind the Muhammedan sacrifices 
at Arafat with the solemnities of those Christian seasons, when he sjioke 
of " the day of Pentecost." 

3 " These are the brazen rings which serve to fasten the lower edge of 
the Kisivah, or covering." — Burton. 

4 " Then commenced the ceremony of Tawdf, or circumambulation.... 
I repeated, after my Mutawwif, or cicerone : ' In the name of Allah, and 
Allah is omnipotent ! I purpose to circuit seven circuits unto Almighty 
Allah glorified and exalted.' " — Burton. 

5 " A true description of the water of the well Zemzem." Burton. The 


men appointed to draw water for the people. And when the 

said people have gone seven times around the first tower, 

they go to this well, and place themselves with their backs 

towards the brink of the well, saying : " Bizmilei erachman 

erachin stoforla aladin," which means, In the name of God, 

God pardon me my sins. 1 And those who draw the water 

throw three bucketsful over each person, from the crown of 

their heads to their feet, and all bathe, even though their 

dress be made of silk. And they say in this wise, that all 

their sins remain there after this washing. 2 And they say 

that the first tower which they walked round was the first 

house that Abraham built, 3 And all having thus bathed, 

* ... 

they go by way of the valley to the said mountain of which 

we have before spoken, and remain there two days and one 

night. And when they are all at the foot of the said 

mountain, they make the sacrifice there. 4 

building which encloses the well (Varthema's " tower") was erected, 
according to Burckhardt, a.d. 1072. Burton estimates the distance 
between the well and the Kaabah at forty cubits. 

1 B'ism-IUdh er-rahmdn er-rahlm. Istaghfir lana. In the name of 
God, the Pitiful, the Compassionate. Pardon us. 

3 " Many hadjis, not content with drinking it, strip themselves in the 
room, and have buckets of it thrown over them, by which they believe 
that the heart is purified as well as the body." — Burckhardt, Idem. 
vol. ii. p. 264. 

3 " Mohammedan mythology affirms that the Kaabah was constructed 
in heaven two thousand years before the creation of this world, and that 
it was then adored by the angels, whom the Almighty ordered to perform 
the Tawaf, or walk round it. Adam, who was the first true believer, erected 
the Kaabah on earth on its present site, which is directly below the spot 
it occupied in heaven. ..The sons of Adam repaired the Kaabah, and after 
the deluge Ibrahim [Abraham], wheu he abandoned the idolatry of his 
forefathers, was ordered by the Almighty to reconstruct it. His son 
Ismayl [Ishmael], who from his infancy resided with his mother Hadjer 
(Hagar) near the site of Meccah, assisted his father, who had come from 
Syria to obey the commands of Allah." — Burckhardt, Idem. p. 297. 

4 Burton justly observes that there is great confusion in this part of 
Varthema's narrative, and gives the following as the consecutive order of 
the ceremonies : "On the 9th of Zu'l Hijjah, the pilgrims leave Mount 
Arafat. On the 12th, many hasten into Meccah, and enter the Kaabah. 



Every generous mind is the most readily delighted and 
incited to great deeds by novel events. Wherefore, in order 
to satisfy many of this disposition, I will add concisely the 
custom which is observed in their sacrifices. Every man and. 
woman kills at least two or three, and some four and some 
six sheep ; so that I really believe that on the first day more 
than 30,000 sheep are killed by cutting their throats, facing 
the east. Each person gives them to the poor for the love 
of God, 1 for there were about 30,000 poor people there, who 
made a very large hole in the earth, and then put in it camels' 
dung, and thus they made a little fire, and warmed the flesh 
a little, and then ate it. 2 And truly, it is my opinion, that 
these poor men came more on account of their hunger than 
for the sake of the pardon; and as a proof that it was so, we 
had a great number of cucumbers, which came from Arabia 
Felix, and we ate them all but the rind, which we afterwards 
threw away outside our tent. And about forty or fifty of 
the said poor people stood before our tent, and made a great 
scrambling among themselves, in order to pick up the said 
rinds, which were full of sand. By this it appeared to us 

They then return to the valley of Muna, where their tents are pitched, 
and sacrifice the victims. On the 10th, the tents are struck, and the 
pilgrims re-enter Meccah." 

1 " Others stood before their tents, and, directing the victim's face 
towards the Kiiabah, cut its throat, ejaculating : ' Bismillah ! Allahu 

" It is considered a meritorious act to give away the victim without 
eating any portion of its flesh." — Burton. 

2 This extempore style of cooking is common among the Bedawin. 
Niebuhr describes it with his usual accuracy : " Quelquefois ils [les 
Arabes du desert] mettent une boule de pate sur des charbons de bois 
allumes, ou sur du fumier de chameau seche ; ils la couvrent soigneuse- 
ment de ce feu, afiu qu'elle en soit penetree ; ensuite iis en otent les 
cendrcs, et la mangent toute chaude." — Voyai/e en Arabic, vol. iii. p. 40. 


that they came rather to satisfy their hunger than to wash 
away their sins. 1 On the second clay a cadi of their faith, 
like one of our preachers, ascended to the top of the said 
mountain and made a discourse to all the people, which 
discourse lasted for about an hour ; 2 and he made in their 
language a sort of lamentation, and besought the people that 
they should weep for their sins. And he said to them in 
a loud voice : " Oh, Abraham, well- wished for and well- 
loved of God !" And then he said : " Oh, Isaac, chosen of 
God, friend of God, beseech God for the people of Naby !" 
and then were heard very great lamentations. 3 And when 
he had finished his sermon, the whole caravan rushed back 
into Mecca with the greatest haste, for at the distance of 
six miles there were more than 20,000 Arabs, who wanted 
to rob the caravan, and we arrived for the defence of 

1 Burton remarks that " this well describes the wretched state of the 
poor Takruri and other Africans, but it attributes to them an unworthy 
motive." He gives a still more revolting instance of their abject poverty, 
which occurred on the road between El-Medinah and Meccah : " After 
the long and sultry afternoon, beasts of burden began to sink in con- 
siderable numbers. The fresh carcases of asses, ponies, and camels, 
dotted the wayside : those that had been allowed to die were abandoned 
to the foul carrion-birds, the Rakham (vulture), and the yellow Ukab ; 
and those whose throat had been properly cut, were surrounded by troops 
of Takruri pilgrims. These half-starved wretches cut steaks from the 
choice portions, and slung them over their shoulders till an opportunity 
of cooking might arrive. I never saw men more destitute." — Ibid. vol. 
iii. pp. 7,8. 

2 The Khuibat el- Wakfah, or Sermon of the Standing, usually preached 
by the Kadhi of Meccah from Arafat, the orator taking his stand on the 
stone platform near the top. In Burckhardt and Burton's time the 
sermon lasted nearly three hours, i.e. from three p.m. till towards sun- 

3 Joseph Pitts, the first Englishman who visited Meccah, describes a 
similar scene during the Hajj of 1680 : — " It was a sight, indeed, able to 
pierce one's heart, to behold so many thousands in their garments of 
humility and mortification [clad in the white ihrdm], with their naked 
heads, and cheeks watered with tears ; and to hear their grievous sighs 
and sobs, begging earnestly for the forgiveness of their sins." — A Faith- 
ful Account of the Religion and Manners of the Mahometans, etc. 


Mecca. 1 But when we had gone half way, that is, between 
Mecca and the mountain where the sacrifice is made, we 
found a certain little wall four fathoms high, and at the 
loot of the said wall a very great quantity of small stones, 
which stones are thrown there by all the people when 
they pass that way, for the objects which you shall hear. 
They say that when God commanded Abraham that he 
should go and sacrifice his son, he went before him, and he 
said to his son that he must follow after him, because it was 
necessary to fulfil the commandments of God. The son 
answered him : " I am well pleased to fulfil the command- 
ment of God." And when Isaac' 2 arrived at the above-men- 
tioned little wall, they say that the devil appeared to him in 
the form of one of his friends and said to him : " My friend 
Isaac, where art thou going ?" He answered him : " I am 
going to my father, who is waiting for me in such a place." 
The devil answered him : " Do not go, my son, for thy 
father will sacrifice thee to God and will put thee to death." 
And Isaac replied : " Let it be so ; if such be the will of 
God, so let it be." The devil then disappeared, and a little 
farther on he appeared in the form of another dear friend 
of Isaac, and said to him the above-mentioned words. They 
relate that Isaac answered with anger : " Let it be so ;" and 

1 On this particular occasion the return of the pilgrims may have been 
hastened by fear of an apprehended attack from the Bedawin ; but the 
same rush, often attended with fatal results, occurs at every Hajj, and 
has given to that part of the ceremonies the name of JSd-Defaa min 
Arafat, the Hurry from Arafat. " Every man," says Burton, " urged 
his beast with might and main : it was sunset ; the plain bristled with 
tent-pegs, litters were crushed, pedestrians trampled, and camels over- 
thrown ; single combats with sticks and other weapons took place ; — 
here a woman, there a child, and there a camel were lost ; briefly, it was 
a state of chaotic confusion." The cause of this precipitation is that, 
in accordance with the example of Muhammed, the Salat el- Esha, or 
Prayer shortly after Sunset, should be said at the mosque of Muzdalifah 
about three hours distant. 

- Here Varthema is in error. According to Muhammedan theology it 
was Ishmael and not Isaac who was ordered to be sacrificed. 


took a stone and threw it in the devil's face : and for this 
reason, when the people arrive at the said place, each one 
throws a stone at the said wall, and then they go to the city. 1 
We found in the street of the said city 15,000 or 20,000 
doves, which they say are of the stock of that dove which 
spoke to Mahomet in the form of the Holy Spirit, 2 which 
doves fly about the whole district at their pleasure, that is, 
in the shops where they sell grain, millet, rice, and other 
vegetable productions. And the owners of the said articles 

1 " Bartema alludes to the 'Shay tan el Kabir,' the "Great Devil,' as 
the buttress at El Munah is called. His account of Satan's appearance 
is not strictly correct. Most Moslems believe that Abraham threw the 
stone at the ' Rajim,' — the lapidated one ; but there are various tradi- 
tions on the subject." — Burton. 

Tbis custom of maledictory lapidation prevails elsewhere in the East. 
In 1835, while travelling from Sidon to Tyre, not far from the former 
place, my muleteer and another Mussulman who accompanied us each 
took up several small stones, at the same time giving me a handful, and 
requesting me to follow their example. Shortly after, we came in sight 
of a conical heap of loose pebbles and stones which stood in the road, on 
approaching which my companions hurled their stones at it with great 
vehemence, uttering simultaneously a long string of curses on the me- 
mory of a famous robber and murderer, who, as I afterwards learned, 
had been killed and buried there half a century before. It has often 
occurred to me since, that the ancient practice, recorded in the Old 
Testament, of raising a heap of stones, or cairns, over notorious crimi- 
nals, may have been analogous to that which I have just mentioned, 
and was, perhaps, the origin of the rite instituted by Muhammed of 
casting stones at the places where Satan is said to have appeared to 
Abraham in the Valley of Muna (more properly, Mina). The language 
in which Scripture describes the execution of Achan is remarkable : — 
" And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned him with fire after 
they had stoned him with stones. And they raised over him a great heap 
of stones unto this day." Joshua vii. 25, 26. I think it may fairly 
be inferred from this account that the stoning on the occasion was not 
only general on the part of the Israelites, but that the action or cere- 
mony was, or was intended to be, perpetuated. See also Joshua viii. 29 ; 
2 Sam. xviii. 17. 

3 " A Christian version of an obscure Moslem legend about a white 
dove alighting on the Prophet's shoulder, and appearing to whisper in 
his ear whilst he was addressing a congregation." — Burton. 


are not at liberty to kill them or catch them. And if any- 
one were to strike any of those doves, they would fear that 
the country would be ruined. 1 And you must know that 
they cause very great expense within the temple. 




In another part of the said temple is an enclosed place in 
which there are two live unicorns, and these are shown as 

1 " Meccah generally, hut the mosque in particular, abounds with 
nocks of pigeons, which are considered the inviolable property of the 
temple, and are called the Pigeons of the Beit- Allah. Nobody dares to 
kill any of them when they enter private houses. In the square of the 
mosque several small stone basins are regularly filled with water for their 
use." — Burckhardt, Travels in Arabia, vol. i. p. 227. 

When Muhammed, accompanied by Abubekr, fled from Meccah, he 
took refuge in a cave of Mount Thor, situated about three miles to the 
south of that city, to which spot he was traced by the emissaries of the 
hostile chiefs of the Koraish ; but on noticing that a dove or pigeon had 
laid its eggs in the narrow passage, and that a spider had spun its web 
across it, they discontinued the search, remarking that if the refugees 
had entered there, the eggs would have been broken, and the web de- 
stroyed. The reverence for the pigeon which prevails among the Mos- 
lems of the Hijaz is supposed to originate in this tradition ; neverthe- 
less, Burton states El-Medinah it is sometimes used as an article 
of food. The same is true of many other parts of the East, but, as a 
general rule, Moslems everywhere have a superstitious notion that ill- 
luck is associated with the killing of pigeons. 

2 Burton remarks that these animals " might possibly have been 
African antelopes, which a lusus naturae had deprived of their second 
horn," adding, "but the suspicion of fable remains." I was inclined, at 
first sight, to coincide in this opinion, and to conclude that Varthema 
saw merely two anomalous specimens of the Oryx, by no means an un- 
common quadruped on the north-east coast of Africa, judging from the 
quantity of its horns brought to Aden by the Somalis. On further re- 
flection, however, I am induced to believe that the " unicorns" which 
our traveller describes with so much exactness, and which were " shown 


very remarkable objects, which they certainly are. I will 
tell you how they are made. The elder is formed like a 

as very remarkable objects," were living representatives of a species of 
the antelope family, the existence of which is very generally doubted. 

The following extracts on this interesting subject are from the notes 
of Dr. Edward Robinson, the learned American editor of Calmet's 
Dictionary of the Holy Bible, under the head of " Unicorn," who, among 
other authorities, quotes the above testimony of Varthema. 

The figure of the unicorn is depicted, according to Niebuhr, on almost 
all the staircases found among the ruins of Persepolis. Voyage en Arabie, 
vol. ii. p. 109. 

Pliny {Hist. Nat. viii. 21) in speaking of the wild beasts of India says : 
" The unicorn (fera monoceros) is an exceedingly fierce animal, resem- 
bling a horse as to the rest of its body, but having the head like a stag, 
the feet like an elephant, and the tail like a wild boar ; its roaring is 
loud ; and it has a black horn of about two cubits projecting from the 
middle of its forehead." With the exception of the Sacred Scriptures, 
these seem to be the chief ancient notices of the existence of the animal 
in question. 

Don Juan Gabriel, a Portuguese colonel who lived several years in 
Abyssinia, assures us, that in the region of Agamos in the Abyssinian 
province of Damota, he had seen an animal of the form and size of a 
middle-sized horse, of a dark chesnut-browu colour, and with a whitish 
horn about five spans long upon the forehead; the mane and tail were 
black, and the legs short and slender. (Ludolph, Hist. JEthiop. lib. i. 
c. 10.) This account is confirmed by father Lobo, who lived for a long 
time as a missionary in Abyssinia. He adds, that the unicorn is ex- 
tremely shy, and escapes from closer observation by a speedy flight into 
the forests. {Voyage Hist. d'Abyssinie, Amst. 1728, vol. i. p. 83, 291.) 

Dr. Sparrman, the Swedish naturalist, who visited the Cape of Good 
Hope in 1772-6, gives an account of one Jacob Kock, who had travelled 
over the greater part of South Africa, and who had found on the face of 
a rock a drawing representing a quadruped with one horn. The Hot- 
tentots told him, that the animal there depicted was very like a horse, 
but had a straight horn on the forehead. They added that these ani- 
mals were rare, that they ran with great rapidity, and were very fierce. 

A more definite account of a similar animal is contained in the Trans- 
actions of the Zealand Academy of Science at Flushing. (Pt. xv. Mid- 
delb. 1792. Pra?f. p. lvi.) The account was transmitted from the Cape 
of Good Hope by Mr. Henry Cloete. It states that a bastard Hottentot, 
named Gerritt Sliuger, related that while engaged with a party in pur- 
suit of the savage Bushmen, they got sight of nine strange animals, 
and shot one of them. It resembled a horse, and was of a light-gray 


colt of thirty months old, and he has a horn in the forehead, 
which horn is about three braccia in length. The other 
unicorn is like a colt of one year old, and he has a horn of 
about four palmi long. 1 The colour of the said animal re- 
sembles that of a dark bay horse, and his head resembles 
that of a stag ; his neck is not very long, and he has some 

colour, with white stripes under the lower jaw. It had a single horn, 
directly in front, as long as one's arm, and at the base about as thick. 
The hoofs were round like those of a horse, but divided below like those 
of oxen. Mr. Cloete mentions that several different natives and Hotten- 
tots testify to the existence of a similar animal with one horn. 

The Quarterly Review for October 1820 (vol. xxiv. p. 120) contains a 
letter from Major Latter, commanding in the Rajah of Sikkim's terri- 
tories, addressed to the Adjutant-General Nicol, wherein he explicitly 
states that the unicorn, so long considered a fabulous animal, actually 
exists at this moment in the interior of Thibet, where it is well known 
to the inhabitants, and is called by them the one-horned tso'po. They 
describe it as being as large as a middling-sized horse ; fierce and ex- 
tremely wild ; seldom, if ever, caught alive, but frequently shot. 

A paragraph in the Calcutta Government Gazette, August 1821, gives 
the following sequel to the foregoing: " Major Latter has obtained the 
horn of a young unicorn from the Sachia Lama, which is now before us. 
He expects shortly to obtain the head of the animal, with the hoofs and 
skin, which will afford positive proof of the form and character of the 
tso'fo, or Thibet unicorn." 

Whether Major Latter's expectation was ever realized, I am unable 
to say; but Professor Owen, whom I had the pleasure of consulting on 
the subject, regards the existence of the unicorn as mythical, to be classed 
with the mermaid and sea serpent, and he consequently infers that Var- 
thema, however trustworthy on other matters of fact, was led astray 
in this instance, either through zoological ignorance, preconceived notions, 
or defective examination, or, perhaps, by a combination of these draw- 
backs. Not presuming, for a moment, to contest the learned professor's 
opinion, which is unquestionably founded on pre-eminent knowledge of 
this branch of science, I am still disposed, nevertheless, to rely on the 
credibility of Varthema, and to believe that he saw at Meccah two ordi- 
nary specimens of the famous unicorn, an animal which further research 
in the unexplored parts of Central Africa, or among the mountains of 
Thibet, may yet bring to light. 

1 Varthema's scale of measurements was probably Venetian. What 
it was in his time I have not ascertained. The modern braccia at Venice 
varies from 25.08 to 26.87 inches. The palmo is 3.937 inches. 


thin and short hair which hangs on one side ; his legs are 
slender and lean like those of a goat ; the foot is a little 
cloven in the fore part, and long and goat-like, and there are 
some hairs on the hind part of the said legs. Truly this 
monster must be a very fierce and solitary animal. These 
two animals were presented to the Sultan of Mecca as the 
finest things that could be found in the world at the present 
day, and as the richest treasure ever sent by a king of 
Ethiopia, that is, by a Moorish king. He made this present 
in order to secure an alliance with the said Sultan of Mecca. 


I must here show how the human intellect manifests itself 
under certain circumstances, in so far as it became necessary 
for me to exercise it in order to escape from the caravan of 
Mecca. Having gone to make some purchases for my 
captain, I was recognized by a Moor who looked me in the 
face and said to me : " In te menaine ?" that is, " Where are 
you from ?" I answered : " I am a Moor." He replied : 
" In te chedeab," that is, " You are not telling the truth." 
I said to him : "Orazalnabi Aneymuz lemma," that is, "By 
the head of Mahomet, I am a Moor." He answered: "Thale 
beithane," that is, " Come to my house ;" and I went with 
him. 1 When I had arrived at his house, he spoke to me in 
Italian, and told me where I had come from, and that he 
knew that I was not a Moor, and he told me that he had 

1 Anta min ain ? Where are you from ? 
Anta kadh-dhdb. You are a liar. 

Wa-rds en-Nabi ana Muslim. By the head of the Prophet, I am a 

Tudl ila beitana. Come to our house. 



been in Genoa and in Venice, and gave me proofs of it. 
When I heard this, I told him that I was a Roman, and that 
I had become a Mameluke at Cairo. When he heard this 
he was much pleased, and treated me with very great honour, 
and as it was my intention to proceed further, I began to say 
to him, if this was the city of Mecca which was so renowned 
through all the world, where were the jewels and spices, and 
where were all the various kinds of merchandize which it 
was reported were brought there. I asked him this only 
that he might tell me why they had not arrived as usual, 
and in order not to ask him if the king of Portugal was the 
cause, he being Lord of the Mare Occano [the Atlantic] and 
of the Persian and Arabian Gulfs. Then he began to tell 
me by degrees why the said articles had not come as they 
were accustomed to do. And when he told me that the king 
of Portugal was the cause, I pretended to be much grieved, 
and spoke great ill of the said king, merely that he might 
not think that I was pleased that the Christians should make 
such a journey. 1 When he saw that I displayed hostility to 
the Christians, he showed me yet greater honour, and told 
me everything point by point. And when I was well in- 
formed, I said to him : " 0, my friend, I beg you, Mena- 
hamena lhabi, 2 to tell me some mode or way by which I may 
escape from the caravan, because my intention is to go to find 
those beings who are hostile to the Christians ; for I assure 
you that, if they knew what I am capable of, they would 
send to find me even to Mecca." He answered me : " By 
the faith of our prophet what can you do ?" I answered 
him that I was the most skilful maker of large mortars in 
the world. Hearing this he said : " Mahomet be ever 

1 According to the Kurrat el-Ayun, a manuscript History of Yemen 
in my possession, the Portuguese had seized seven native ships be- 
tween India and the Persian Gulf, and massacred their crews, prior to 
Varthema's visit to Meccah. See note on p. 61. 

2 Probably atmaannak min en-Nabi, I beseech you from (or, for the 
sake of,) the Prophet. 


praised, who has sent us such a man to serve the Moors and 
God." So he concealed me in his house with his wife. 
And he begged me that I would induce our captain to drive 
out from Mecca fifteen camels laden with spices, and this he 
did in order not to pay thirty seraphim to the Sultan for the 
toll. I replied that if he would save me in this house, I 
would enable him to carry off a hundred camels if he had 
so many, for the Mamelukes have this privilege. And when 
he heard this he was much pleased. Afterwards, he in- 
structed me in the manner in which I should conduct my- 
self, and directed me to a king who is in the parts of India 
Major, and who is called the king of Deccan. When the 
time comes we will speak of that king. The day before 
the caravan set out he concealed me in his house in a secret 
place. In the morning, two hours before day, there went 
through the city a great quantity of instruments and trumpets, 
sounding according to their custom, and making proclama- 
tion that all the Mamelukes, under pain of death, should 
mount their horses and commence their journey towards 
Syria. Whereupon, my heart was seized with a great per- 
turbation when I heard this proclamation, and I earnestly 
recommended myself with tears to the wife of the said mer- 
chant, and besought God that he would save me from such 
violence. On Tuesday morning the said caravan departed, 
and the merchant left me in his house with his wife ; and 
he went with the caravan, and told his wife, that on the 
following Friday, she must send me away in company with 
the caravan of India which was going to Zida, which is a 
port of Mecca, forty miles distant. I cannot express the 
kindness I received from this lady, and especially from her 
niece of fifteen years old, they promising me that, if I would 
remain there, they would make me rich. But I declined all 
their offers on account of the present danger. When 
Friday came, I set out with the caravan at noon, to the no 
small regret of the said ladies, who made great lamentations, 



and at midnight we arrived at a certain city of Arabia, and 
remained there all night and until noon of the following 
day. On Saturday we departed and travelled until mid- 
night, when we entered into the said port ' of the city of 


This city is not surrounded by walls, but by very beautiful 
houses, as is the custom in Italy ; we will, therefore, not 
dwell long on a description of it. 2 It is a city of very ex- 
tensive traffic, because a great number of the pagan people 
come here ; the reason being that neither Christians nor Jews 
are admitted. 3 When I had arrived at the said city I imme- 
diately entered into a mosque, that is, a temple, where there 
were at least 25,000 poor people, and I hid myself in a corner 
of the said temple, and remained there for fourteen days. 
All day long I remained stretched upon the ground covered 
up with my garments, and keeping up a constant groaning 

1 Jiddah, or, more correctly, Juddah, 

2 The present wall which surrounds Juddah on the land side was built 
by El-Ashraf Kansooh El-Ghoree, the Mameluke Sultan of Egypt, a.h. 
917, or thirteen years after the date of Varthema's visit. The town is 
superior to any in the Hijaz : the houses are well built of stone and 
madrepore, and consist generally of two stories. 

3 The rule which excluded all but Muhammedans from Juddah has 
been practically rescinded within the last half century, and there are 
now several Christian merchants, chiefly Greeks, resident in the town. 
Niebuhr experienced greater civility there than in Egypt, but he was 
warned against approaching the gate leading to Meccah. At the period 
of Burckhardt's visit there were no Christians settled in Juddah, but a 
few Greeks from the islands of the Archipelago brought merchandize to 
the market from Egypt. He says : " In the time of the Sherifs they 
were much restricted, compelled to wear a particular dress, and prohi- 
bited from approaching the Meccah gate ; but the Turks, having become 
masters of the Hijaz, abolished these restrictions, and a Christian now 
enjoys complete liberty there." 


as though I were suffering intense pain in my stomach aiftl 
body. The merchants said: "Who is that who is lament- 
ing so ?" The poor people who were near me said : " It is 
a poor Moor, who is dying." Every evening when night 
came I quitted the mosque and went to buy food. I leave 
you to judge whether or no I had an appetite, eating 
only once a day, and that very badly. This city is governed 
by the lord of Cairo. The lord of it is one who is a brother 
of Barachet, that is, of the Saltan of Mecca. 1 They are sub- 
ject to the Grand Sultan of Cairo. There does not occur 
to me much to say here, for they are Moors. The land does 
not produce one single thing, and there is a great scarcity 
of water, that is to say, of fresh water.- The sea beats 
against the walls of the houses. 3 All sorts of necessaries are 
found here, but they come from Cairo, from Arabia Felix, 
and from other places. In this city there are always a great 
number of sick people, and they say that this is in consequence 
of the bad air of the place. It contains about five hundred 
families. 4 At the end of fourteen days I made an agreement 

1 This is another striking proof of Varthema's general correctness. 
The patronymic of the ruling Sherif of Meccah at the time was Barakat, 
of which family several notices, collected from Arabian historians, have 
already been given in the Introduction. 

2 With the exception of a few palm-trees near one of the mosques 
there is no vegetation of any kind in Juddah, and the country beyond is 
a barren desert. Rain water is carefully preserved in cisterns, with 
which many of the houses are provided ; but most of that used for drink- 
iug is drawn from wells about one mile and a half distant on the south- 
ern side. Water, indeed, may be found everywhere in the vicinity at 
a depth of a few feet from the surface, but it is so brackish as scarcely 
to be drinkable. 

3 Only to a very small extent now, and that at high water, or, more cor- 
rectly, according to the winds, by which the tides in the harbour are greatly 
influenced. This circumstance seems to corroborate Niebuhr's opinion 
that the sea had gradually receded from the town: the combined result, 
perhaps, of growing coral-reefs and silt. Voyage en Arable, vol. i. p. 222. 

4 The population is much larger now. Ali Bey estimated it at 5,000, 
which was probably an exaggeration. Burton, on the authority of Mr. 
Cole, H.M. late vice-consul at Jiddah, states ic to be 2,500, but thinks 
that figure too low. 


with the master of a vessel which was going towards Persia, 
for in the said port there were about one hundred ships 
great and small. Three days afterwards we set sail, and 
began to navigate the Red Sea. 


It will be understood that this sea is not red, but that the 
water is like that of any other sea. In this sea we sailed 
one day until the setting of the sun, because it is not pos- 
sible to navigate it during the night time. And every day 
they proceeded in this manner until they arrived at an 
island called Chameram. 1 After this island you can proceed 
in safety. The reason why it is not possible to sail during 
night is, that there are many islands and many rocks, and 
it is necessary that a man should always be stationed on the 
top of the mast of the ship in order to see the route, which 
cannot be done during the night-time, and therefore they 
can only navigate during the day. 2 

3 Camran, generally written Camaran. 

3 The same precautions are still taken to avoid the numerous coral- 
reefs, sunken rocks, and dangerovis patches, which exist between Leet, 
about ninety miles to the south of Juddah, and the island of Cainrau. 
The navigation below the latter place is much more easy. 




Having discoursed of the places, cities, and customs of the 
people of Arabia Deserta, as far as it was permitted me to 
see them, it appears to me that it will be proper, with brevity 
and more happily, to enter upon Arabia Felix. At the end 
of six days we arrived at a city which is called Gezan, 
which city has a very fine port ; and we found there forty- 
five vessels belonging to different countries. This city is 
situated on the sea shore, and is subject to a Moorish lord, 
and is a district very fruitful and good, like Christian coun- 
tries. Here there are very good grapes and peaches, 

1 Jeezan, or Gheeziin, is situated in a fertile district, but the town Las 
fallen into decay. It has a few stone buildings, but the principal part 
consists of grass huts, with pyramidal tops. It possesses a large fort, 
in a ruinous condition, and the small bazaar is now scantily supplied 
with such provisions as the natives use, the principal of which is the 
dhurah (Varthema's " dora"), a species of millet, extensively culti- 
vated throughout Yemen, where it is called tadm. There is a good 
inner anchorage for small boats off the town. The dress of the male 
portion of the population, like that of the common Arabs of the country 
generally, consists of a cotton cloth, called a footah, worn round the 
loins. El-Edrisi states that the district of Jeezan was occupied by a 
family of the famous tribe of Ghassan (the Ghassanides,) which proba- 
bly became extinct, or was made subject by the Imams of Yemen, during 
the thirteenth century of our era. Niebuhr, Voyage en Arable, vol. iii. p. 
232. See also Moresby's Sailing Directions for the Red Sea, pp. 27, 28. 


quinces, pomegranates, very strong garlic, tolerable onions, 
excellent nuts, melons, roses, flowers, nectarines, figs, gourds, 
citrons, lemons, and sour oranges, so that it is a paradise. 
The inhabitants of this city go almost naked, and live after 
the manner of the Moors. There is here abundance of flesh, 
grain, barley, and white millet, which they call clora, and 
which makes good bread. We remained here three days 
in order to lay in provisions. 


Departing from the said city Gezan, we went for five days 
always in sight of land, that is to say, the land was on our 
left hand ; and seeing some habitations on the sea shore, we 
disembarked fourteen of our people to ask for some provi- 
sions in exchange for our money. They answered our request 
by beginning to throw stones at us with slings, and these were 
certain people who are called Baduin : they were in number 
more than one hundred, and we were only fourteen. We 
fought with them for about an hour, so that twenty-four of 
them remained dead on the field, and all the others took to 
flight; for they were naked, and had no other arms than these 
slings. We took all that we could, namely, fowls, calves, 
oxen, and other things fit to eat. In the course of two or three 
hours the disturbance began to increase, as did also the inha- 

1 Bedouin, or more correctly Bedawin, sing. Bedawy. From the col- 
lective Bedu, properly ' a desert.' Hence the literal rendering is 
' desert-men ;' but the designation is frequently applied to Arabs who 
inhabit the open country in contradistinction to those who dwell in towns. 
In this instance, however, Varthema may have taken the term from the 
village El-Bedawi, there being one of that name midway between Jeezau 
and Camran. Another locality in the neighbourhood, called Khabt el- 
Bakkar, Niebuhr describes as being inhabited by some wandering fami- 
lies who were accused of plundering all travellers who came in their 
way. Voyage en Arable, vol. iii. p. 233. 


bitants of the said land, so that they were more than six 
hundred, and we were obliged to withdraw to our ship. 


On that same day we took our course towards an island 
called Chamaram, which island appears to be ten or twelve 
miles in circumference, where there is a place containing 
about two hundred families, which is inhabited by Moors. 
In this said island there is sweet fresh water and flesh, and the 
best salt I ever saw is made there. It has a port towards 
the mainland, from which it is distant about eight miles. 
This island is subject to the Sultan of the Amanni, 2 that is, 
the Sultan of Arabia Felix, and we remained there two 
days. We then steered towards the mouth of the Red Sea, 
and for two days you can navigate in safety night and day, 
but from the island to Zida you cannot navigate by night. 
And when we had arrived at the said mouth, it really ap- 

1 Camran is eleven miles long and from two to four broad. There are 
seven villages on the island, consisting mostly of huts belonging to the 
fishermen employed on the neighbouring pearl banks and turtle islands. 
Several spots are under cultivation, good water is plentiful, and other 
supplies, such as oxen and sheep, are tolerably abundant ; for which 
reasons, as well as on account of its secure harbour, the island is much 
frecpiented by native vessels trading between the coasts of India and 
Persia and the Red Sea. 

" " Soldano delli Amanni." This was either the reigning Imam of 

Sanaa, or Sultan 'Amir ibn Abd el-Wahhab. The latter, about this 
period, was contesting the sovereignty of Yemen with the former, and 
had already succeeded in wresting from him a large portion of the 
southern districts, including the sea-board. As Varthema does not men- 
tion the term " Imam," the ordinary designation of the rulers at Sanaa, 
and which he must frequently have heard used, I apprehend that he 
misconstrued the title into the name of a country or people, and then 
Italianized it, distorting " Imam" into " Amanni." Or, it may be a 
contraction and corruption of [Amir el-Mu~\amanin, (Lord of the Faith- 
ful,) another title common to all the Imams of Sanaa. 


pcarcd as though we were within a hemmed-in house ; for that 
embouchure is about two or three miles wide, and on the right 
hand thereof there is land about ten paces high and unin- 
habited, so far as we could perceive from a distance. On 
the left hand of the said embouchure there is a very high 
mountain, and it is of stone ; and in the middle of the said 
embouchure there is a certain little uninhabited island which 
is called Bebmendo. 1 Those who wish to go to Zeilla take 
the route on the right hand, and those who want to go to 
Aden take that on the left hand ; and this we did in order 
to go to Aden, and we always sailed in sight of land. From 
the said Bebmendo we arrived at the city of Aden in a little 
less than two days and a half. 

1 The narrowest part of the " Little Strait" is one and a half mile wide. 
Varthema's description of the low land on the African side, and the 
" very high mountain" on the Arabian side, (Bab el-Mandeb Cape,) is 
remarkably correct. Native craft going from the Red Sea to Zeila, or 
any other ports on the former coast, still take the right or wider chan- 
nel ; those bound for Aden the left. By a pardonable misconception, 
however, he gives the name of the two Straits, "Babmendo," (Bab el- 
Mendeb) to the small island which forms them, and which will be re- 
cognized at once as Perim, called by the natives, Mayun. 

The Arabs have a tradition respecting the formation of the Straits of 
Bab el-Mandeb which, for its absurdity, surpasses very many of their ex- 
travagant legends. I quote the following from a manuscript in my pos- 
session, entitled Tdrikh Thaghr 'Aden (a History of the Valley of 
Aden), written by the learned and devout Kadhi, Aboo-Abdallah bin 
Ahmed Muhrirn. He says : " Formerly from Kalzam [the Gulf of 
Suez?] to Aden, and beyond the mountains of Socotra, all was dry 
land : there was no sea, and no outlet ; but when Alexander the Great, 
in his voyage round the world, came here, he opened a gulf wherein the 
sea flowed until it was arrested near the mountains of Bab el-Mandeb, 
whereby Aden was surrounded by water, and nothing was visible there 
but the tops of the mountains jutting up into peaks Then Alex- 
ander, (but others say, some other person,) cut a passage through Bab 
el-Mandeb, whereby the water rushed in and filled the whole of El-Kal- 
zam. When the rush was over, Aden rose up, and the waters about it 
were drained in the direction of Esh-Sham." 



Aden is the strongest city that was ever seen on level 
ground. It has walls on two sides, and on the other sides 
there are very large mountains. On these mountains there 
are five castles, and the land is level, and contains about 
five thousand or six thousand families. 1 The market is held 
at two o'clock in the night, on account of the intense heat 
in the city during the day.- At a stone's cast from this 
city there is a mountain, upon which stands a castle, and at 
the foot of this mountain the ships cast anchor. 3 This city 

1 The ruins of these towers still exist, also of the two walls, one of 
which extended along the shore of " Front Bay" (which appears to have 
been the principal harbour at that period), and the other over the heights 
commanding Bandar Hokkat, now called Holket Bay. These walls, con- 
necting as they did the Mansuri heights on the north-east with the 
offshoots of the lofty Shamsan range on the south-west, completely en- 
closed the area where the town of Aden is situated, and which seems at 
one time to have been the crater of a volcano, forming a tolerably per- 
fect circle from one to one mile and a half in diameter. According to 
the Arabian author last quoted, most of these fortifications were built by 
'Othman ez-Zenjily, who was appointed governor of that district by 
Tooran Shah bin Ayyub, brother of the famous Salah ed-Din (Saladin), 
Sultan of Egypt, on his departure from Yemen in the year of the Hijrah 
571, a.d. 1175. Ez-Zenjily erected many other public buildings at 
Aden, some of which were standing when the British captured the 
place in 1839 ; but his rapacity rendered him odious to the in- 
habitants, and on hearing of the approach of Taghtakin, another 
brother of Salah ed-Din, who was sent with an army against Yemen, 
a. h. 579, he fled from Aden, and died at Damascus four years 

2 An incidental proof that Varthema was at Aden during the hot 
season, which lasts from May to October. By " two o'clock in the night," 
I understand two hours after sunset. 

3 The mountain here mentioned is the small island of Seerah, which 
has lately been joined to Aden by a causeway. The following absurd 
tradition respecting this spot is recorded by the author above quoted : 
" Cain, having killed his brother Abel, and being afraid of his father 
Adam, fled from India to Aden, and took up his abode on Seerah. Be- 
coming sad at the separation from his home and relatives, Satan appeared 


is extremely beautiful, and the capital of Arabia Felix. It 
is the rendezvous for all the ships which come from 
India Major and Minor, from Ethiopia and from Persia. 
All the ships which are bound for Mecca put in here. As 
soon as a ship comes into port, the officers of the Sultan of 
the said city board it, and desire to know whence it comes, 
the nature of its cargo, and when it left its own country, and 
how many persons there arc on board. And when they 
have obtained all this information, they remove from the 
said ship the masts, sails, rudder, and anchors, and carry 
them all into the said city ; and this they do in order that 
the said persons may not depart without paying the dues to 
the Sultan. 1 The second day after my arrival in the said 
city I was taken and put in irons, and this occurred through 
one of my companions, who said to me : " Christian dog, son 
of a dog." Some Moors heard this speech, and through 
this I was taken with great violence to the palace of the 
Vice-Sultan, and they immediately consulted whether they 
should at once put me to death, because the Sultan was not 
in the city. They said that I was a spy of the Christians. 
But as the Sultan of this country never puts any one to 

to him, and presented him with sundry musical instruments, such as the 
lute, with which he managed to amuse himself." According to another 
tradition, the fire of the day of judgment is to spring from this rock ; 
and the same author states that a well existed there up to a compara- 
tively recent period, from the bottom of which flames used to issue, and 
that the end of a rope, let down by way of experiment in the presence 
of many witnesses, was found to be burnt on being drawn up. There is 
nothing improbable in this story, for the peninsula of Aden is undoubt- 
edly of volcanic origin, and the same igneous agency still occasionally 
manifests itself among the Zebair islands in the Red Sea, and on the 
opposite coast of Africa. 

The Portuguese, under Lopez Soarez de Albergaria, occupied the 
island of Seerah in 1516, and during their short stay repaired the old 
fort which stood on its summit, and further strengthened the position 
by enclosing it with a strong wall, the remains of which are still extant. 

1 This is a common custom with the native chiefs on the Arabian 
shores when they wish to detain a vessel. 


death, these people respected my life, and kept me sixty-five 
days with eighteen pounds' weight of iron on my feet. On 
the third day after we had been taken, there ran to the 
palace forty or sixty Moors, belonging to two or three ships 
which had been captured by the Portuguese, 1 and who had 
escaped by swimming, and they said that we belonged to 
these Portuguese ships, and that we had come there as spies. 
For this fancy of theirs they ran to the palace in the greatest 
fury, with arms in their hands to slay us ; but through the 
merciful intervention of God, those who guarded us fastened 
the door on the inner side. At this report the district rose 
in arms, and some desired that we should die and some not. 
At last the Vice-Sultan obtained that we should be spared. 
At the end of sixty-five days the Sultan sent for us, and we 
were both taken on a camel, still, however, with the said 
irons on our feet. We were eight days on the road, and 
were then presented to the Sultan at a city called Rhada. 
At the time when we arrived at the city the Sultan was 
reviewing eighty thousand men, because he was about to go 
to war with another Sultan of a city called Sana, which is 
distant from Rhada three days' journey. 2 This city lies 

1 The following passage, which I translate from the Kurrat el-Ay&n, 
confirms this statement: "In this year [a.h. 908=a.d. 1502, about one 
year before Varthema's arrival at Aden], the ships of the Sultan of the 
Franks made their appearance in the sea between India and the island 
of Hormuz. They seized seven vessels and murdered most of the 

2 Radaa is situated about one hundred and sixty miles north of Aden, 
and sixty to the south of Sanaa. The town possesses a strong citadel 
and several detached forts, now in a very ruinous condition. The name 
in full is Radaii el-'Arsh. 

The preparations for an expedition against Sanaa, incidentally mentioned 
by Varthema, are strikingly corroborated by the following extract from 
the Kurrat el-Ayun : " In the month of Safar of this year [a.h. 910 = 
a.d. 1503-4] El-Meleh Edh-Dhafir, [The Victorious King, the surname 

given to 'Amir ibn Abd el-Wahhab, the then reigning Sultan of Aden 
and southern Yemen], projected an attack on Sanaa, and made pre- 
parations accordingly. To that end he despatched several of his 


partly on an acclivity and partly on the plain, 1 and it is very 
beautiful and ancient, populous and rich. "When we were 
presented before the Sultan he asked me whence I came. I 
answered : "Anabletrom iasidi anaigi assalem menel Cayro 
anegi Medinathalnaby & Mecca & badanigi bledech cul ragel 
calem inte sidi seich hiasidi ane abdech Inte maarf sidi ane 
musolimim." That is, the Sultan said : ' Whence are you 
and what do you purpose doing ?" I answered : " that I was 
a Roman, that I had become a Mameluke at Cairo, that I 
had been to Medina, to Naby, where Mahomet is buried, 
and to Mecca, and that then I had come to see his High- 
ness ; because through all Syria, and at Mecca, and at 
Medina, it was said that he was a saint, and if he was a saint, 
(as I believed), he must know that I was not a spy of the 
Christians, and that I was a good Moor and his slave." 2 

officers to the Tihama to levy a force from among the Arabs, and in the 
month of Rabiii el-Akhir, a body of Arab horsemen, consisting of the 
Ziialiyyin, the Samiyyin, the Kahra, the Munasika, the Warnah, the 
Lamiyyin, the Kaabiyyin, the Miiazibah, and the 'Arshiyyin, proceeded 
to the seat of government. And in the same month our lord [the Sultan] 
marched towards Sanaa, stopping for some days at Radaa el-'Arsh, from 
whence he went to Dhamar, and on the twenty-second of the same month 
to Sanaa, before which city he halted with a very large army and many 
terrible engines of war, and he pressed the siege until the date herein- 
after mentioned." It seems highly probably that Varthema's interview 
with the Sultan at Radaa, occurred during the short stay made by the 
latter at that place while on his march towards Sanaa. 

1 The passage in the original is : " Et e questa Citta parte in costa, 
parte in piano." As the town of Radaii is nearly two hundred miles 
from the sea, Varthema undoubtedly uses the word "costa" in the sense 
given above, which is, moreover, locally correct. Dante affixes the same 
signification to it : — 

" Lo sommo er' alto, che vincea la vista, 
E la costa superba piu assai 
Che da mezzo cpuadrante al centro lista." 

Del Puroatorio, Canto iv. 

which Boccacio paraphrases thus : " L' acclivita di essa costa rispetto al 
piano orizontale era assai maggiore di 45 gradi." 

2 Ana \_min~\baldd er- Rilm, ya sidi. Ana&ji asallim min el-Kdhirah. 


Then said the Sultan: "Say, Leila ilala Mahometh resul- 
lala." 1 But I could not pronounce the words at all, whether 
such were the will of God, or through the fear which had 
seized me. The Sultan, seeing that I could not pronounce 
these words, commanded that I should be thrown into prison 
and kept with the greatest strictness by the men of eighteen 
castles, that is, four for each castle. They remained four 
days, and then were changed for four others from four other 
castles. And in this order they guarded me for three 
months, with a loaf of millet in the morning and one in the 
evening, although six of these loaves would not have suf- 
ficed me for one day, and sometimes I should have been 
well pleased if I could have had enough water. 

Two days afterwards, the Sultan took the field, and 
marched to the said city Sana with his army, in which there 
were three thousand horsemen, sons of Christians, as black 
as Moors. They were of those of Prester John, 2 whom they 

Ana aji Medinut-en-Nabi, u-a-Meccah, wa-hiiad ana aji baladak. Kid 
rajid kallam ; Anta, sidi, sheikh. Ya sidi, ana abdak. Anta ma tuaraf, 
sidi, ana Muslim ? " I am of the country of Rum, my lord. I became 
a Muhammedan at Cairo. I came to El-Medinah of the Prophet, to 
Meccah, and then I came to your country. Every one says, sir, you are 
a sheikh. Sir, I am your slave. Do you not know, sir, that I am a 
Mussulman ?" 

1 La Huh ilia Allah ; Muhammed Rasdl Allah. " There is no god 
but the God ; Muhammed is the Prophet of God." 

2 That is, Abyssinians, " Prester John " being the fanciful name which 
the Portuguese had given to the Emperor of that people during the 
preceding century. The late Professor Lee, in a note on the^ title of 
" Rasul" {sent or commissioned), which Ibn Batuta, in his Travels, says 
had been maintained by some of the Sultans of Yemen up to his time be- 
cause their grandfather was so called when commissioned as the Emir of 
Yemen by one of the Khalifs of the house of 'Abbas, remarks as fol- 
lows : — " A title of this sort seems to have originated the Prester John of 
Abyssinia, of which the missionary accounts said so much. A Tartar king 
seems also to have assumed this title, which in Persian was translated 
Ferishta Jan, John the Angel, probably because he had received Christ- 
ianity. Hence the European ' Prester John ;' but how this became 
ascribed to the King of Abyssinia, it is not easy to say, unless he had 



purchased at the age of eight or nine years, and had them 
trained to arms. These constituted his own guard, because 
they were worth more than all the rest of the eighty thou- 
sand. The others were all naked, with the exception of a 
piece of linen worn like a mantle. When they enter into 
battle they use a kind of round shield, made of two pieces of 
cow hide or ox hide fastened together. In the centre of the 
said round shields there are four rods, which keep them 
straight. These shields are painted, so that they appear to 
those who see them to be the handsomest and best that could 
be made. They are about as large as the bottom of a tub, 
and the handle consists of a piece of wood of a size that can 
be grasped by the hand, fastened by two nails. They also 
carry in their hand a dart and a short and broad sword, and 
wear a cloth vest of red or some other colour stuffed with 
cotton, which protects them from the cold and also from their 
enemies. They make use of this when they go out to fight. 
They all also generally carry a sling for the purpose of 
throwing stones wound round their heads, and under this 
sling they carry a piece of wood, a span in length, which is 
called mesuech, with which they clean their teeth, 1 and gene- 
rally from forty or fifty years downwards they wear two 
horns made of their own hair, so that they look like young 
kids. 2 The said Sultan also takes with his army five thou- 

assurned the title mentioned here by our traveller which belonged to the 
King of Yemen." Travels of Ibn BatMa, p. 54, n. 

1 This custom still prevails throughout Yemen. The Misivdk, which 
is generally carried about the head-dress, is made from the branch of an 
indigenous shrub, the wood of which is very fibrous, and is covered with 
a tough spongy bark, about an inch of which is cut off in order to allow 
the enclosed fibres to expand, thereby forming the tooth-brush. The 
Indigo/era pancifiora is applied to a similar purpose in Scinde and by 
the Hindus of India. 

2 This style of wearing the hair is peculiar, I believe, to some of the 
tribes of central Yemen ; but I have seen a similar coiffure among the 
African female slaves at Zanzibar. The Arabs nearer the coast, generally 
bind their long shaggy hair lightly on the top of the head, leaving the 
ends to form a large waving tuft. 


sand camels laden with tents, all of cotton, and also ropes of 
cotton. 1 


Having seen this army depart, let us return to my prison. 
In the said palace of the city there was one of the three 
wives of the Sultan, who remained there with twelve or 
thirteen very beautiful damsels, whose colour was more near 
to black than otherwise. This queen was very kind to me. 
I and my companion and a Moor, being all three in prison 
here, we arranged that one of us should pretend to be mad, 
in order the better to assist one another. Finally, the lot fell 

1 It is remarkable that in the foregoing account of the weapons borne 
by the Arabs no mention is made of fire-arms, and I find from the 
Chronicles of the Kurrat el-Ayihi, and likewise from the Ruiih er-Ruah, 
another MS. in my possession, that they were not generally known in 
Yemen before a.h. 921 = a.d. 1515, when they were introduced by 
the Egyptian expedition, and used with murderous effect on the inha- 
bitants of the coast opposite Camran, which island they had previously 
seized and fortified. A year later, the Egyptian forces were joined by a 
Turkish fleet and army under Suleiman Pasha, who had been sent by 
Sultan Selim to cooperate with them against the Portuguese ; for the 
attack made on Yemen by the former does not appear to have been 
authorized by Kansooh el-Ghoree, the then reigning sovereign of Egypt. 
The following is a description given by the author of the Kurrat el- 
Ay An of the Turkish matchlock : — " The soldiers of the Lord of the Room 
were armed with musket-bows with which they took aim. It is a most 
wonderful weapon, and whoever confronts it must be overcome. It is 
something like a gun, only it is longer and thinner. It is hollow, and in 
this hollow is inserted a piece of lead as large as a lote berry, and it is 
filled with powder, and then discharged by means of a match at the 
bottom of the musket, and if it strikes any one he must perish, for it 
goes in at one side of him and comes out at the other." 

Slings as well as bows and arrows had ceased to be used by the Arabs 
of Yemen as far back as Niebuhr's time. {Voyage en Arable, vol. iii. p. 
187, n.) They are now generally armed with matchlocks ; those who 
do not possess that weapon carry a sword or spear ; but all are provided 
with thejanbeah, or curved dirk, worn in a girdle round tie waist. 



upon me to be mad. Having then taken this enterprise 
upon myself, it behoved me to do such things as were natu- 
ral to madmen. Truly, I never found myself so wearied or 
so exhausted as during the first three days that I feigned 
madness. The reason was that I had constantly behind me 
fifty or sixty little children, who threw stones at me, and I 
threw stones at them. They cried out: " Iami iasion Iami 
ianun ;" that is to say : " Madman." 1 And I had my shirt 
constantly full of stones, and acted like a madman. The 
queen was always at her window with her damsels, and re- 
mained there from morning till evening to see me and talk 
with me ; and I, being mocked by many men and merchants, 
taking off my shirt, went, quite naked as I was, before the 
queen, who took the greatest delight in seeing me, and would 
not let me leave her, and gave me good and sound food to 
eat, so that I gained my point. She also said to me : " Give 
it to those beasts, for if you kill them it will be their own 
fault." A sheep was passing through the king's court, the 
tail of which weighed forty pounds. I seized it and de- 
manded of it if it was a Moor, or a Christian, or, in truth, a 
Jew ; and repeating these words to it and many others I 
said : " Prove yourself a Moor and say : Leila illala Ma- 
hometh resullala ;" and he, standing like a patient animal 
which could not speak, I took a stick and broke all its four 
legs. The queen stood there laughing, and afterwards fed 
me for three days on the flesh of it, than which I do not 
know that I ever ate better. Three days afterwards I killed, 
in the same manner as I had killed the sheep, an ass which 
was carrying water to the palace, because he would not 
become a Moor. Acting in the same manner by a Jew, I 
cudgelled him to such an extent that I left him for dead. 
But one day, being about to act in my usual manner, I came 
across one of those who had me in custody, and who was 
more mad than I was, who said to me : " Christian dog, son 
1 Yamajrv&n! Va majw&n ! Madman! Madman ! 


of a dog." I threw a good many stones at him, and he 
began to turn towards me with all the children, and struck 
me with a stone in the breast which did me an ill service. 
I, not being able to follow him on account of the irons on 
my feet, took the way to my prison ; but before I reached 
it he struck me with another stone in the side, which gave me 
much more pain than the first. I could easily have avoided 
both if I had chosen to do so, but I chose to receive them to 
give colour to my madness. And therefore I immediately 
entered my prison and blocked myself in with very large 
stones, and remained there two days and two nights without 
eating or drinking. The queen and the others feared that I 
might be dead, and caused the door to be broken open, and 
these dogs brought me some pieces of marble, saying: "Eat, 
this is sugar ;" and some others gave me grapes 1 filled with 
earth, and said that it was salt, and I eat the marble and the 
grapes and everything, all together. On that same day, 
some merchants belonging to the city brought two men who 
were esteemed amongst them as two hermits would be 
amongst us, and who dwelt in certain mountains. I was 
shown to them, and the merchants asked these men-: " Whe- 
ther did it appear to them that I was holy or mad ?" One 
of them said : " It appears to me that he is holy ;" the other 
said it appeared to him that I was mad. In this way they 
kept disputing for more than an hour, and I, in order to get 
rid of them, raised my shirt and p — d over them both ; 
whereupon they began to run away crying out : " Migenon 
migenon suffi maffis," that is, " He is mad, he is mad, he 
is not holy." The queen was at her window with her 
maidens, and seeing this they all began to laugh, saying : 
" O achala o raza al Naby ade ragel maphe donia metha- 
lon ;" that is, " By the good God, by the head of Mahomet, 

1 Radaa is famous for its grapes. Most of those which are sent to 
the Aden market come from that district. 

F 2 


this is the most capital fellow in the world." 1 The next 
morning I found asleep him who had given me the two 
blows with the stones. I seized him by the horns, 2 and put- 
ting my knees upon the pit of his stomach, gave him so 
many blows upon the face that he was covered with blood, 
and I left him for dead. The queen remained standing at 
her window, exclaiming : " Kill those beasts." The govern 
nor of that city, discovering through many circumstances 
that my companions treacherously wished to escape, and had 
made a hole in their prison and removed their irons, and 
that I had not done so, and as he knew that the queen took 
great pleasure in me, he would not do me any injury until 
he had spoken with her ; who, when she had heard every- 
thing, considered me in her own mind to be rational, and 
sent for me, and had me placed in a lower chamber in the 
palace without any door, but still with the irons on my feet. 


The first night ensuing, the queen came to visit me with 
five or six of her damsels, and began to examine me, and I 
began to give her to understand by degrees that I was not 
mad. She, being a clever woman, saw that I was not at all 
mad, and began to make much of me ; ordered a good bed 
after their fashion to be given me, and sent me plenty of 
good food. The following day she had prepared for me a 
bath according to their custom, with many perfumes, and 
continued these caresses for twelve days. Afterwards, she 
began to come down to visit me every night at three or four 
o'clock, and always brought me good things to eat. Enter- 

1 Majnfin, majniln ; sUfi ma fish. He is a niadinan ; he is not intel- 
gent (or pious). 

WAttah, xoa-ras en-Nabi \haclha er-rajul ma fid-il&nya mithlu. J'>y God, 
by the head of the Prophet, there is not one in the world like this man. 

2 That is, l.y the tufts of his hair. 


ing where I was, she called me " Iunus tale inte iohan," 
that is, " Lodovico, come here, are you hungry ?' n And I 
replied : " E vualla," that is, " Yes," 2 for the hunger which 
was to come ; and I rose on my feet and went to her in my 
shirt. And she said : " Leis leis camis foch," that is, " Not 
in that manner, take off your shirt." 3 I replied : " Iaseti 
ane maomigenon de lain," which is, " O, madam, I am not 
mad now." 4 She answered me : " Vualla ane arfin te habe- 
denin te migenon inte mafdunia metalon," that is, "ByGod, 
I know well that thou never wast mad, on the contrary, that 
thou art the best witted man that ever was seen." 5 In order 
to please her I took off my shirt, and held it before me for 
modesty's sake, and thus she kept me before her for two 
hours, contemplating me as though I had been a nymph, 
and uttering a lamentation to God in this manner : " Ialla 
in te sta cal ade abiat me telsamps Inte stacal ane auset ; 
Ialla Ianaby iosane assiet : Villet ane asuet ade ragel abiath 
Insalla ade ragel Iosane Insalla oel binth mit lade," that is, 
" O God, thou hast created this man white like the sun, 
thou hast created my husband black, my son also is black, 
and I am black. Would to God that this man were my 
husband. Would to God that I might have a son like this 
man." And saying these words she wept continually and 

1 Yihias, tiidl ; anta ju\ln ? Jonah, come ; are you hungry ? 

2 Ay vf Allah, a common expletive affirmation. 

3 Leis leis kamisfok. No, no, not with your shirt on. 

4 Ya sitti, ana ma majmln Hun. Madam, I am not mad now. 

6 W Allah, ana ''aiiraf anta abadan anta majmfoi. Anta ma fid- 
dunya mithlak. By God, I know that you were never mad. There is 
not another in the world like you. 

6 Ya Allah! Anta khalakt hddha abyad mithl esh-sliams. Anta 
khalaktani ana asivad. Ya, Allah ! Ya Nabi ! zanji aswad : waladi 
ana aswad : hddha er-rajul abyad. In- shda- Allah hddha er-rajid zanji ! 
In shda-Allah awallad ibn mithl hddha. God ! Thou hast created 
this [man] white like the sun. Thou hast created me black. God ! 
Prophet ! my husband is black ; my son is black ; this man is white. 
Would that this man may become my husband ! Would that I may 
bear a son like this [man] ! 


sighed, passing her hands over mc all the while, and pro- 
mising me that, as soon as the Sultan returned, she would 
make him take off my irons. On the next night the queen 
came to me with two of her damsels and brought me some 
good food to eat, and said to me : " Tale Iunus," that is, 
" Come here, Lodovico ;" " Ane igi andech," I replied. 
" Leis setti ane mochaet ich no," that is, said the queen, 
" Lodovico, would you like that I should come and stay a 
little while with you." I answered : " No ; that it was 
quite enough that I was in chains, without her causing me 
to have my head cut off." Then said she : " Let caffane 
darchi alarazane," that is, " Do not be afraid, for I will 
stake my own head for your safety." " In cane in te may- 
rith ane Gazella in sich : olla Tegia in sich olle Galzerana 
insich," that is, " If you do not wish me to come, shall Ga- 
zella, or Tegia, or Galzerana come V n She only said this 
because she wished to come herself and remain with me in 
the place of one of these three. But I never would consent, 
because I thought of this from the time when she began to 
show me so many kindnesses. Considering also, that as soon 
as she had had her wish she would have given me gold and 
silver, horses and slaves, and whatever I had desired. And 
then she would have given me ten black slaves, who would 
have been a guard upon me, so that I should never have 
been able to escape from the country, for all Arabia Felix 
was informed of me, that is to say, at the passes. And if I 
had once ran away, I could not have escaped death, or 

1 Tiidl Yilnas. Come hither, Jonah. Ana aji andah. I will come 
to you. 

Leis \y(t~\ sitti ; ana mukayyad, jaJcfi. No, madam, I am in chains, 
and that is enough. 

La takhuf, ana taralii \tla rdsana. Do not be afraid ; I take all the 
responsibility on my head. 

In-knn anta ma tarid ana, Gazelle ansieh ; wa-illa Tujiah ansieh ; 
wa-illa (iuherdna ansieh. If you do not want me, I will call Gazelle ; 
or I will call Tajiah ; or I will call Gulzenma [for you]. 


chains for life. For this reason, therefore, I never would 
yield to her, and also because I did not wish to lose both 
my soul and body. 1 wept all night, recommending- myself 
to God. Three days from that time the Sultan returned, 
and the queen immediately sent to inform me that if I would 
remain with her she would make me rich. 1 replied : "That 
if she would cause my chains to be taken off, and perform 
the promise she made to God and Mahomet I would then 
do whatever her highness wished. She immediately had me 
taken before the Sultan, who asked me where I wished to 
go when he had taken off my chains. I answered him : 
" Iasidi habu maris una mafis, meret maris uuellet mans, 
ochu mafis octa mafis alia al naby Intebes sidi in te iati iacul- 
ane abdech," that is, " O lord, I have no father, no mother, 
no wife. I have no children, I have neither brothers nor 
sisters, I have only God, and the Prophet, and you, O lord : 
will it please you to give me food, for I wish to be your 
slave all my life V n And I wept constantly. The queen 
was present all the time, and said to the Sultan : " Thou 
wilt have to render an account to God of this poor man, 
whom without any cause thou hast kept so long in chains. 
Beware of the anger of God." Said the Sultan : " Well, go 
w r here thou wilt, I give thee thy liberty." And immediately 
he had my chains taken off, and T knelt before him and 
kissed his feet, and then I kissed the queen's hand, who 
took me also by the hand saying : " Come with me, poor 
fellow, for I know that thou art dying of hunger." When 
I was in her chamber she kissed me more than a hundred 
times, and then she gave me many good things to eat. But 
I did not feel any inclination to eat, for I had seen the 
queen speak privately to the Sultan, and I thought that she 

1 Ya sidi, abb ma fish ; umm ma fish ; marat ma fish ; waladma/ish; 
akh ma fish; okht ma fish. Allah, en-JS/abi, anta, bas, sidi. Anta 
taatini akul, ana abdak. lord, I have no father, no mother, no wife, 
no child, no brother, no sister. God, the Prophet, [and] you only. You 
give me food to eat, and I am your slave. 


had asked me of the Sultan for a slave. Wherefore I said to 
the queen: "I will not eat unless you promise to give me my 
liberty." She replied : " Scut mi Ianu inte maarfesiati alia," 
that is, " Hold thy peace, madman, thou dostnot know what 
God has ordained for thee." "Incane inte milie inte amirra," 
that is, " If thou wilt be good thou shalt be a lord." 1 Now, 
I knew the kind of lordship she wished to confer upon me ; 
but I answered her that she should let me get a little fatter, 
and get back my blood, for the great fear I was in filled my 
breast with other thoughts than those of love. She answered: 
" Vuulla inte calem milie ane iaticullion beit e digege e amani 
c filfil e cherfa e gronfili e iosindi," that is, " By God, thou 
art right, but T will give thee every day eggs, hens, pigeons, 
pepper, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmegs." 2 Then I recovered 
my spirits somewhat at the good words and promises she 
gave me. In order the better to restore me, I remained 
fifteen or twenty days in her palace. One day she sent for 
me and asked me if I would go hunting with her. I replied 
in the affirmative and went with her. On our return I pre- 
tended to fall sick from weakness, and remained in this 
feigned state eight days, while she continually sent persons 

1 Ashut, majnftn ; anta ma tiiaraf aish jd'ati Allah. Silence, rnadman ; 
you do not know what God will give. 

In-hdn anta malieh, anta amir. If you are good, you [shall be] an 

2 W Allah, anta titkdllam malieh : ana ''aiitilc kuljom baidh, wa-dujdj, 
wa-hamdm,"wa-filjil, wa-kirfah, wa-karanful, wa-juz- Hindi. By God, 
you say well : I will give you every day eggs, fowls, pigeons, pepper, 
cinnamon, cloves, and cocoa-nuts. The spices named are in common use 
among the Arabs. It is not surprising that Varthema should have mis- 
taken Joz-Ilindi for nutmeg ; the word is so misapplied still by the 
common Maltese and other Franks in Syria and Egypt. Ibn Batiita's 
description of the cocoa-nut is quaint. He says : " It is like a man's 
head ; for it has something like two eyes and a mouth, and when green 
is like brains, and its properties are, to nourish and quickly to fatten the 
body, to make the face red, and greatly to stimulate to venery." And 
in a subsequent chapter he more broadly than modestly describes the 
effect of the incentive on himself. Lee's Translation, pp. G0,17G. 


to visit me. One day I sent to inform her that I had made 
a promise to God and to Mahomet that I would visit a holy 
man who was in Aden, and who, they said, performed 
miracles ; and I maintained that it was true in order to 
accomplish my object. She sent to tell me that she was well 
pleased, and ordered a camel and twenty-five seraphim of 
gold to be given to me, whereat I was much rejoiced. The 
following day I mounted and went to Aden in eight days, 
and immediately visited the holy man, who was worshiped 
because he always lived in poverty and chastity, and spent 
his life like a hermit. And, truly, there are many in that 
country who pass this kind of life, but they are deceived 
from not having been baptised. 1 When I had performed 
my devotions on the second day, I pretended to be cured by 
virtue of that holy man. Afterwards I wrote to the queen, 
that by the virtue of God and of that holy man I was cured, 
and since God had been so merciful to me I wished to go 
and see the whole of her kingdom. This I did because the 
fleet was in that place, and could not depart for a month. I 
spoke secretly with the captain of a ship, and told him that 
I wished to go to India, and if he would take me I would 
give him a handsome present. He replied : " That before 
he went to India he wished to touch at Persia." With that 
I was satisfied, and so we agreed. 


The following day I rode for fifteen miles, and found a 
city which is called Lagi ; a the place is level and very popu- 

1 According to contemporaneous Arabian historians, Yemen teemed 
with such devotees at the period referred to. The fashion, or piety, has 
considerably decreased within the last two centuries. 

2 Lahej, the place indicated, is about thirty miles to the north-west 


lous. A vast number of date-trees grow here, there is also 
plenty of animal food and grain as with us. But there are 
no grapes here, and a great scarcity of firewood. This city 
is uncivilized, and the inhabitants are Arab's, who are not 
very rich. I departed thence and went to another city, 
which is one day's journey from the first mentioned, and is 
called Aiaz. 1 It stands upon two mountains, between which 
there is a very beautiful valley and a beautiful fountain, in 
which valley the market is held to which the men come 
from both the mountains. And very few of those markets 
are held without quarrels taking place. The reason is this : 
those who inhabit the mountain towards the north wish that 
those who inhabit the mountain towards the south should 
believe with them in Mahomet with all his companions ; 
while these will only believe in Mahomet and Ali, and say 
that the other captains are false. For this reason they kill 

of Aden. The name, though frequently applied to the town, designates 
more correctly the surrounding district, the former being generally 
called El-Hawtah by the Arabs, signifying a level spot. It is situated 
in a fertile plain, and is watered by the torrents which periodically 
descend from the mountains in its rear. The country is well cultivated 
and produces abundance of dhurah, sesamum, several kinds of pulse, 
and a small quantity of cotton, besides various culinary vegetables. It 
also affords good pasturage, and supplies the Aden market with excel- 
lent cows, sheep, and goats. It raises very little fruit, and, as Varthema 
remarks, no grapes grow there. At the period of his visit, Lahej was 
under the government of Sultan 'Amir ibn Abd el-Wahhab, who ruled 
over the greater part of southern Yemen. On his death, a.d. 1517, it 
reverted to the Imam of Sanaa, and continued under that jurisdiction, 
though not without frequent intervals of independence, till the year 
1728, when the chief of the Abdali tribe inhabiting the district threw off 
his allegiance to the Imam, and subsequently succeeded in capturing 
Aden. His successors in the same family retained the government of 
both places until dispossessed of the latter by the British in 1839. 

1 I presume this to be the "Asas," or, according to his Arabic ortho- 
graphy, the " 'Az'az," of Niebuhr, which he describes as a village on the 
confines of the domain belonging to Aden. As I have not met with the 
name in any of the Arabian authors within reach, I conclude it is a place 
of little note. 


each other like dogs. 1 Let us return to the market, to which 
are brought many kinds of small spices, and a great quantity 
of stuffs, of wool, and of silk, and very excellent fruits, such 
as peaches, pomegranates, and quinces, figs, nuts, and good 
grapes. You must know that on each of these mountains 
there is a very strong fortress. Having beheld these things I 
departed thence and went to another city, which is distant 
from this two days' journey and is called Dante, 2 and is an 
extremely strong city, situated on the top of a very great 
mountain, and is inhabited by Arabs, who are poor, because 
the country is very barren. 


In order to follow out the desires after novel things already 
conceived in our minds we departed from that place, taking 
our way towards another city, distant two days' journey, 
which is called Almacarana, 3 and is situated on the top of a 

1 That is, the northerners were Sunnis, and the southerners Skids, or 
more probably Zaidis, the followers of Zaid, son of Ali, surnarned Zain 
el-'Abidin, which sect was very numerous in Yemen, and comprised the 
person and family of the Imam. They held with the Shiiis that Ali was 
unjustly superseded in the Khalifate by Abubekr, 'Omar, and 'Othman, 
and are represented as having no respect for the Twelve Imams, and for 
omitting all mention of the saints in their devotions. These were the 
more salient points of antagonism between them and the Sunnis, which 
frequently led to bloody feuds. There were other differences of a more 
abstruse character respecting the Divine decrees, free will, and human 
responsibility. (See Sale's Preliminary Discourse to the Koran, p. 233, 
Niebchr, Voy. en Arable, vol. iii. pp. 17, 18, and D'IIerbelot, sub 
voce Zeidiah, vol. iii. p. 734.) 

a More correctly Damt. Niebuhr's orthography is worse than Var- 
thema's : he writes it " Dimne," and describes it as a " bourg a foire au 
sud de mont Maharras," which mountain he says is very high and steep. 
It appears to have been an important stronghold, and will be found 
mentioned in the succeeding note. 

3 El-Makranah. It is surprising that Niebuhr has not enumerated 


mountain, the ascent to which is seven miles, and to which 
only two persons can go abreast on account of the narrow- 
ness of the path. The city is level on the top of the moun- 
tain, and is very beautiful and good. Food enough for the 
whole city is collected here, and for this reason it appears 
to me to be the strongest city in the world. There is no 
want of water there nor of any other necessary of life, and, 
above all, there is a cistern there which would supply water 

this place in his list of the towns and villages of Yemen. Arabs who 
have come to Aden from that and the adjoining districts have frequently 
dilated on the by-gone impregnability of its castle, and the extent of its 
great reservoir. The following extract, also, from the Ruuh er-Ruah, 
recording the capture of the place from Sultan 'Amir ibn Abd el-Wahhab 
by the Egyptian army, strikingly corroborates several details contained 
in this chapter : — " Then the Ameer Bar-Sabbai [the Egyptian com- 
mander] deputed the Ameer Akbai over the affairs of Ta'ez, and went 
himself with his army towards El-Makranah. On hearing this, Sultan 
Amir hastened to the place, and took from thence his women [or wives], 
and as much treasure as he could conveniently remove, and departed 
towards El-Halkah, where he remained. Immediately after, the Egyp- 
tian army entered El-Makranah and plundered it, taking therefrom the 
immense stores of wealth and provisions which it contained, and forcing 
some of the people to surrender the valuables which 'Amir had deposited 
with them." Subsequently, a Fakih named 'Amr el-Jabraty, who had 
acted as jester to the Sultan, disclosed to the Egyptian commander some 
treasures which were hidden in the castle, consisting of a vast amount 
of specie, jewels, and other valuables belonging to the royal family, all 
of which the captor seized and distributed among his soldiers. 

Notwithstanding this spoliation, however, El-Makranah was not plun- 
dered of all its wealth. Twelve years later, after the Imam had suc- 
ceeded in expelling the Egyptians from Saniia, his son Mutahhir attacked 
them at El-Makranah and Damt, and carried away considerable booty. 
The following narration of that event is from the author above quoted : 
— " Then Mutahhir proceeded to take Malikiah and all the intervening 
strongholds as far as Damt, which castle he captured, and proclaimed an 
amnesty to the inhabitants. Next he entered El-Makranah, granting an 
amnesty to the Circassian [MamlOk] garrison, and receiving the sub- 
mission of the tribes. He then took all the arms and guns which he 
found there ; also many copper utensils of (Jhassdni manufacture inlaid 
with silver, and costly China ware, which had belonged to the Beni 
Dhahir" [the Sultan's family]. 


for 100,000 persons. The Sultan keeps all his treasure in 
this city, because he derives his origin and descent from it. 
For this reason the Sultan always keeps one of his wives 
here. You must know that articles of every possible kind 
are brought here, and it has the best air of any place in the 
world. The inhabitants are more white than any other 
colour. In this city the Sultan keeps more gold than a 
hundred camels could carry, and I say this because I have 
seen it. 




When I had rambled about the above-mentioned city, on 
parting thence I went to another place, distant from this one 
day's journey, which is called Keame, 1 and is for the most 
part inhabited by black people, who are very great mer- 
chants. This country is extremely fertile, excepting in fire- 
wood, and the city contains about two thousand families. 
On one side of this city there is a mountain, upon which 
stands a very strong castle. And here there is a kind of 
sheep, some of which 1 have seen, whose tails alone weigh 
forty-four pounds. They have no horns, and cannot walk 
on account of their size. 2 Here also is found a kind of white 

1 This is undoubtedly Yerim, which Niebuhr describes as " une petite 
ville mal biitie, munie d'une forteresse sur un rocher escarpe ; et situee 
dans une plaine assez vaste, et a 4 lieues d'Allemagne de Damar ;" 
nevertheless it was the residence of a Dowla, or governor, of the Imam. 
He adds, that as the name of this town resembles that of the famous 
garden of Irem mentioned in the 89th chapter of the Koran, it is inferred 
by some that the terrestrial paradise stood in this region ; but having 
himself travelled through the district, he considers that it is less fertile 
than many others in Yemen. It was at Yerim that one of his com- 
panions, the lamented Forskal, died on the 11th of July 1763, just a 
century ago. Niebuhr gives a view of the town in vol. i. of his Voyage 
en Arable. 

a This is generally a correct description, though I cannot vouch for 
the weight ascribed to the sheep's tails. 


grape, which has no seeds within, than which I never tasted 
better. 1 Here also I found all kinds of fruit as I said above. 
The climate here is most perfect and singular. In this place 
I conversed with many persons who were more than one 
hundred and twenty-five years old, and were still very 
healthy. The people here go more naked than otherwise, 
but the men of good condition wear a shirt. The lower 
orders wear half a sheet crosswise, after the fashion of 
prelates. 2 Through the whole of this Arabia Felix the men 
wear horns made of their own hair, and the women wear 
loose trowsers, after the fashion of seamen. 




Then I departed and took to a city named Sana, 3 which is 
distant from the said city Reame three days' journey. It is 

1 These grapes are brought to Aden during the season in small baskets 
covered with wild sage. They resemble the sultanas which are imported 
from Smyrna. 

2 The original is : Li altri di bassa conditione portano mezo un linzolo 
ad armacolla a la apostolicha, the sense of which is very obscure. Per- 
haps it means that the cloth in question, which is oblong in shape, is 
worn like a pallium or a stole, sometimes thrown loosely round the neck, 
and sometimes over one shoulder, which is precisely the case. In addi- 
tion to this, however, they generally wear a similar cloth round the loins. 
The uses of these simple garments are thus correctly described by 
Niebuhr : — " En deployant sa large ceinture il a vin matelas, avec le 
lingo d'epaule il couvre le corps et la tete, et e'est entre ces draps qu'il 
dort nud et content." Voyage en Arable, vol. iii. p. 56. 

3 Sanaa, the capital of Yemen and the residence of the Imam, is situ- 
ated at the foot of a high range of mountains called Jebal Nikam. With 
this exception, Varthema's notes, which are unusually brief on the sub- 
ject, are generally correct. Edrisi describes it as " abounding in good 
things, and full of buildings. It is the oldest, the largest, and most 
populous city of Yemen. It is in the centre of the first climate, has an 
even atmosphere, a fertile soil, and the heat and cold there are always 


situated on the top of a very large mountain, and is ex- 
tremely strong. The Sultan encamped before with 80,000 
men for eight months in order to capture it, but could 
only gain it by capitulation. 1 The walls of this city are 
of earth, of the height of ten braza, and twenty braza 

temperate." Ibn Batuta merely says " it is a large and well-built city." 
The Rev. Mr. Stern, who visited Sanaa in 1856, estimates the population 
at about 40,000 inhabitants, of whom 20,000 are Muhammedans, and 
18,000 Jews. Niebuhr gives a plan and a detailed description of the 
city in his Voyage en Arable, vol. i. pp. 326-329. 

' He should have said that the Sultan had utterly failed in capturing 
the place. The circumstances of the attempt referred to, which occurred 
two years before Varthema's visit, are thus narrated by the author of the 
Kurrat el- Ay An : — "During this year [a.h. 907:= a. d. 1501] Sultan 
'Amir besieged Sanaa, and when the inhabitants were reduced to great 
straits, they wrote to Bahal, offering him certain presents, together 
with the fortress of Dhamarmar, if he would come to their assistance. 
(Before their arrival, the Zaidieh [Zaidis] abandoned the side of the 
Sultan.) They accordingly came in vast numbers, and a severe battle 
was fought between them and the Amir 'Ali el-Blladaui, [one of the Sul- 
tan's generals,] in which neither party gained the advantage. Eventually, 
however, the Ameer's soldiers were overpowered ; whereupon the Sultan 
collected all his forces, which were dispersed around Sanaa, and formed 
them into one camp, in consequence of which movement the enemy were 
able to stop the road, and to cut off all his supplies. The Sultan then 
decided to return homewards, and to fall on the Zaidis who had gathered 
in strength to circumvent him ; but God came to his relief. [Here, a 
different hand, probably a Zaidi, has added these words to the MS., ' had 
he remained he would have been caught.'] The Sultan, having collected 
his troops and equipage, retired from before Sanai on the 7th of Muhar- 
ram, a.h. 90S, followed by the Zaidis who harassed his rear ; but his 
soldiers charged them like 'An tar aud attacked them like 'Omar, and put 
them to an ignominious flight. Finally, he reached Dhamarmar in 
safety, [' and a fugitive,' adds the interpolator], losing nothing of any 
consequence, so that his safety was in effect a great victory to him and 
to those who were with him over the enemy, who were in such large 
numbers, and had succeeded in stopping all his supplies. This first 
siege lasted five months." 

'Amir's second attack on Sanaa was more successful. On that occa- 
sion, according to the author of the Runh er-Ruah, his army consisted 
of 180,000 men, of which 3,000 were cavalry. When Varthema met him 
at Radaii, on his march towards Sanaa, he witnessed a review of 80,000 
(See p. 61 ante and note 2.) 


wide. Think, that eight horses can go abreast on the top of 
it. 1 In this place many fruits grow the same as in our coun- 
try, and there are many fountains. In this Sana there is a 
Sultan who has twelve sons, one of whom is called Mahometh. 
lie is like a madman: he bites people and kills them, and 
then eats their flesh until his appetite is satisfied. He is four 
braza high, well proportioned, and of a dark brown colour. 2 
In this city there are found some kinds of small spices 
which grow in the neighbourhood. This place contains 
about 4,000 hearths. The houses are very handsome and 
resemble ours. Within the city there are many vines and 
gardens as with us. 


After seeing Sana I resumed my journey and went to 
another city called Taesa, 3 which is distant three days' jour- 

1 Niebuhr says that the walls are of earth, faced with unburnt brick 
and surmounted by a great many small turrets. According to the nar- 
rative of the French travellers who visited Sanaa in 1712, as given by 
De la Roque in his Voyage de V Arable Heureuse, the breadth of the walls 
is sufficient to admit of driving eight horses abreast. 

2 The then ruling Imam was Ahmed ibn el-Imam en-Nasir, surnamed 
El-Mansur, who was taken prisoner by Sultan 'Amir when he captured 
Sanaa, and died at Ta'ez under suspicion of having been poisoned. I have 
not succeeded in discovering any notices corroborative of Varthema's 
statement respecting the cannibal propensities of one of his sons. Bur- 
ton remarks on the passage : " This is a tale not unfamiliar to the 
western world. Louis XL of France was supposed to drink the blood of 
babies, — 'pour rajeunir sa veine ejmisee.' The reasons in favour of such 
unnatural diet have been fully explained by the infamous M. de Sade." 
Pilgrimage to El-Medinah and Mecca/t, vol. ii. p. 352, n. 

:i Ta'ez is about one hundred and ten miles to the south of Sanaa. 
Abulfeda says that in his time (fourteenth century) it was the residence 
of the princes of Yemen, and describes it as " a fortress situated in the 
midst of the mountains which overlook the Tihama [the sea coast], 
and the plain of Zebid. Above Ta'ez there is a pleasure-ground 
called Sahlah, to which spot the prince of Yemen has conducted a stream 


ncy from Sana aforesaid, and is situated in a mountain. 
This city is very beautiful, and abounds in all kinds of 
elegancies, and, above all, in a vast quantity of rose water, 
which is distilled here. It is reported of this city that it is 
extremely ancient : there is a temple there built like the 
Santa Maria Rotonda of Rome, and many other very ancient 
palaces. There are very great merchants here. These people 
dress like those above mentioned. They are olive coloured. 
Departing thence I went to another city, distant from this 
three days' journey, which is called Zibit ; l a large and very 

of water from the neighbouring heights. He has also erected several 
large buildings in a garden, and, altogether, it is a most agreeable 
place." Niebuhr, who gives a detailed account of the town together 
with a view and plan, says it is situated at the foot of a fertile moun- 
tain called Jebel Sabir, and is surrounded by a wall of crude bricks with 
a slight revkement of burnt bricks. Within the enceinte of the walls is 
a steep rock four hundred feet high, on which the citadel El-Kahirah 
stands. Varthema's " temple" was probably the mosque of the re- 
nowned Mohammedan saint Isma'il Mulk, which Niebuhr styles the 
" Cathedral of Ta'ez." There are many mosques and other public build- 
ings both within and without the city, but most of them are in a very 
dilapidated condition. Baskets of rosebuds are brought from Ta'ez to 
Aden during the season. The place was occupied by the Egyptian forces 
on its evacuation by Sultan 'Amir ibn Abd el-Wahhab, a few days 
before his capture and death. At present, though nominally subject 
to the Imam of Sanaa, it is governed by the chief of the Sherjebi tribe 
who inhabit the district. 

1 Zebid, situated in one of the most fertile valleys of Yemen, was for- 
merly the capital of the Tihama, and a place of considerable importance ; 
but owing to the gradual filling-up of the old port of Ghalitkah, much 
of its trade was diverted to Mokha, Hodeidah, and Loheia, and it is now 
reduced to a second-rate town. El-Edrisi describes it in bis time as 
" a large city, its inhabitants are prosperous, being men of wealth and 
substance, and the voyagers thereto are many. There assemble mer- 
chants from the Hijaz, and Abyssinia, and Egypt, who go up in Juddah 
vessels. The Abyssinians bring their (raMk) slaves thereto, and from 
thence are exported different kinds of Indian aromatics, Chinese and other 
commodities." (I was surprised to find that Gabriele Sionita, in his Latin 
translation of El-Edrisi, makes merces of the Arabic raMk, which occurs 
in this and in another extract which I have quoted in note 1, page 86. 
Raktk is a common word for slave in Yemen and in Egypt.) Abul- 



excellent city, situated near the Red Sea, at half a day's 
journey. It is a place of very considerable extent by the 
Red Sea, and is supplied with an immense quantity of sugar, 
and has most excellent fruits ; is situated on a plain between 
two mountains, and has no walls around it. A very great 
traffic is carried on here in spices of all kinds, which are 
brought from other countries. The dress and colour of 
these people is the same as of those before mentioned. Then 
I departed from this place and went to another city, distant 
one day's journey, called Damar, 1 inhabited by Moors, who 
are very great merchants. The said city is very fertile, and 
the manner of living and customs of the inhabitants are the 
same as of those before mentioned. 

feda says Zebid is " situated in a plain, somewhat less than a day's 
journey from the sea. Its water is derived from wells, and it abounds 
in palm-trees. It is surrounded by a wall, and has eight gates." As 
this latter observation contradicts the statement of Varthema, it must 
be borne in mind that Abulfeda wrote two centuries before his time, 
and the more recent account of Niebuhr is sufficient to establish our 
traveller's general veracity. Niebuhr states that " the wall of the town 
is almost entirely demolished to a level with the ground, and the poor 
people dig into the foundations to obtain stones wherewith to build 
their houses." Notwithstanding the existence of a river, which during 
the rainy season flows in a copious stream through the valley, the same 
author says that the inhabitants draw water from sunken wells, and that 
it is of an excellent quality. Voy. en Arabie, vol. i. pp. 261-264. 

Zebid was taken from 'Amir ibn Abd el-Wahhab by the combined 
Egyptian and Turkish armies on the 17th of Jumad el-Awwal, 922 = 
17th June, 1516. The excesses which they committed on the occasion, 
as recorded by the author of the Kurrat el Ay an, were atrocious in the 
extreme. It was wrested from the conquerors not long after by the 
Imam of Sanaa, and continued, nominally, a dependency of that princi- 
pality until it finally fell into the hands of the Turks, together with 
several towns on the coast, about A.D. 1832. 

1 More correctly, Dhamar, situated about sixty miles to the east of 
Zebid, — a hard day's journey, but by no means an uncommon one with 
the Arabs, mounted on their fleet dromedaries. Abulfeda remarks that 
it is a well known city, and the birthplace of many authors on the 
Traditions. Niebuhr, who visited it, says that it is situated in a fertile 
territory, and is renowned for its breed of horses. The town, which is 
large and well built, has no wall, but is defended by a strong fortress 





All these above-named cities are subject to the Sultan of 
the Amanni, 1 that is, the Sultan of Arabia Felix, who is 
called Sechamir. 2 Secho is the same as saint, amir, lord, and 

adjoining. It contains a famous Medresseh, or College, belonging to the 
sect of the Zaidieh, which was frequented by five hundred students. 
Voyage en Arable, vol. i. pp. 324-5. 

1 It now strikes me as most probable that Varthema's " Amanni" is 
merely his Italian way of writing " Yemen," which Gabriele Sionita, in 
his Latin version of El-Edrisi, renders " Iaman." (For a different 
solution see note 2 on p. 57.) 

2 We have here another remarkable coincidence strikingly confirma- 
tive of Varthema's general correctness. The reigning prince at the time 
was 'Amir ibn Abd el-Wahhab ibn Daood ibn Dhahir, etc., surnamed 
Edh-Dhafir Salah ed-Din, who succeeded his father Abd el-Wahhab, 
generally styled El-Melek el-Mansur, a.h. 894 = a.d. 1488. In the 
course of a few years he wrested the greater part of Yemen from the 
Imam, and eventually occupied Sanaa. His career, indeed, was an 
unbroken series of victories until arrested, first by the Egyptian expedi- 
tion in 1515, and then by the Turks, who invaded Yemen the year fol- 
lowing. He was overtaken as a fugitive, on his way to seek shelter in 
the castle of Dhamarmar, by a detachment of the Egyptian army with 
which he had had a fierce engagement on the preceding day, and was 
murdered by them in cold blood on the 24th of Rabiaa el-Akhir, 923 = 
12th May, 1017. His head they carried to Sanaa, and exhibited it 
before the walls ; whereupon the people surrendered at discretion, and 
opened the gates to the Egyptian commander. 

The following account of the various public monuments erected by 
'Amir ibn Abd el-Wahhab is from the Kin-rat el-Aydn : — " He built the 
Great Mosque in the city of Zebid, which excels all others, and expended 
thereon enormous wealth. Also the Medresseh [College] called Edh- 
Dhafirieh, opposite the Dar el-Kebir, in the same city. Also the Me- 
dresseh of Sheikh Isma'il ibn Ibrahim el-Jabraty, and the tomb of 
the Fakih Abi-bekr ibn 'Ali el-Haddad, outside the town, near the Bab 
el-Kartab. Also two Medressehs at Ta'ez, to which place he also brought 
a stream of water. Also the Great Mosque and a Masjid at El-Makra- 
nah. Also a Medresseh at Radaa el-'Arsh. Also a Masjid at Aden, to 
which place he also conducted the water [from the country beyond] as 
far as the outer gate, and built a large reservoir iu the town itself, and 

r '> 


the reason why they call him holy is this, that he never put 
any one to death excepting in war. You must know that in 
my time he had 15,000 or 16,000 men in chains, and to all 
he gave two quattrini per man for their expenses daily, and 
thus he left them to die in prison when they deserved death. 
He also has 16,000 slaves whom he maintains, and they are 
all black. 


Departing from this place I went to the above-mentioned 
city of Aden for five days. In the middle of the route I 
found a most terrible mountain, in which we saw more than 

another at the village of 'Aik ; besides innumerable other mosques, re- 
servoirs, wells, and dams, wherever they were needed, and in detached 
hamlets. He it was who laid down the aqueduct to Aden from a distant 
place, which cost him immense treasures. Other pious acts without 
number are attributed to him,... and no passage of his life is censurable 
except his interference with the Fakihs and their endowments. And I 
think this was the cause of his downfal, and therefore counsel all 
sovereigns who may rule over the affairs of the Mussulmans, and all 
others who may have anything to do with them, not to meddle with the 
pious endowments, or with the Ulema, for I have never heard of any 
doing so who was not punished, either in his person, his property, or his 

I find that 'Amir ibn Abd el-Wahhab was styled " Sheikh" prior to 
his succession to the principality, and although Arabian historians 
denominate him subsequently as " Sultan," it is highly probable that 
he continued to be styled, generally, " Sheikh 'Amir." The word Sheikh 
means primarily an aged man, an elder ; thence, a chief or ruler, a learned 
man, or one renowned for piety. 

Varthema's statement that 'Amir never put any one to death except 
in war, is contradicted by the narrative of his life contained in the 
Ktirrat el-Ay An ; though, as compared with his predecessors, and espe- 
cially with the Egyptian and Turkish pashas who succeeded him, he 
was a remarkably lenient ruler. The " slaves" mentioned above were 
chiefly Abyssinians, and formed the principal part of the standing 


10,000 apes, 1 amongst which were certain animals like lions, 
which do great injury to man when in their power to do so. 
On their account it is not possible to pass by that route ex- 
cepting in companies of at least one hundred persons. We 
passed in very great danger, and with no little hunting of 
the said animals. However, we killed a great number of 
them with bows and slings and dogs, so that we passed in 
safety. As soon as I had arrived in Aden, I placed myself 
in the mosque pretending to be ill, and remained there all 
day. In the evening I went to find the captain of the ship, 
so that he put me on board secretly. 


Having determined to see other countries we put to sea 
according to our intention; but as fortune is accustomed to 
exercise her unstable will on the water, equally unstable, 
we were turned somewhat from our design ; for, six days 
from that time we took the route to Persia, sailing for seven 
days, and then an accident occurred which made us run as 
far as Ethiopia, together with twenty-five ships laden with 
madder to dye clothes ; for every year they lade as many as 
twenty-five ships in Aden with it. This madder grows in 
Arabia Felix.- With extreme labour we entered into the 
port of a city named Zeila, and remained there five days, in 
order to see it and wait for favourable weather. 

1 In the original " gatti maimoni." Niebuhr states that he frequently 
saw hundreds of apes at a time in the woods of Yemen. Voy. en Arable, 
vol. iii. p. 147. 

Varthema's animal " something like a lion" was probably the hyena, 
which is not uncommon in the country. Some large apes still exist in 
the hills at Aden, and a hyena was killed there a few years ago. 

2 Arabice, Foowivah. This root is still extensively exported from 
Aden and other ports of Yemen. 






The beforenamed city of Zeila 1 is a place of immense 
traffic, especially in gold and elephants' teeth. Here also 
are sold a very great number of slaves, which are those 
people of Prcster John whom the Moors take in battle, and 
from this place they are carried into Persia, Arabia Felix, 
and to Mecca, Cairo, and into India. In this city people 
live extremely well, and justice is excellently administered. 
Much grain grows here and much animal food, oil in great 
quantity, made not from olives but from zerzalino, 2 honey and 

1 Zaila, which Vincent identifies as the ancient Moonclus, is situated 
on the north-east coast of Africa, opposite to Aden, and about sixty 
miles from the Straits of Bab el-Mandeb. El-Edrisi, who calls it 
" Zalegh," says " it is a town small in size, but with many inhabitants ; 
voyagers thereto also are numerous. Most of the ships of Kalzam come 
as far as this town, bringing various merchandise which is traded with 
in Abyssinia. Slaves and silver are taken from thence." (As silver does 
not appear among the exports from Abyssinia either in ancient or modern 
times, except in the shape of foreign coin which had previously been 
imported into the country, the Nubian geographer must have been mis- 
informed in that particular.) Abulfeda correctly describes Zaila as 
" situated at the bottom of a bay, in a plain, and the heat of the place 
is excessive. The water is derived from wells, but is brackish. There 
are no gardens or fruits." Ibn Batuta says : " the stench of the coun- 
try is extreme, as is also its filth, from the stink of the fish, and the 
blood of camels which are slaughtered in the streets." I may add, from 
personal experience, that it is a most wretched place in every respect ; 
with a population of nearly a thousand souls, it can only boast of about 
a dozen houses built of madrepore, the remaining dwellings consisting 
of mats and reeds. Nevertheless, Zaila, as the principal seaport of 
Hurrur and southern Abyssinia, has still a considerable trade, of which 
gold dust and elephants' teeth form a part. Until within the last few 
years, also, it carried on a brisk traffic in slaves, who were exported to 
the places mentioned above by Varthema. It is now under the Ottoman 
Porte, but its customs are farmed by the Pasha of Hodeidah to a native. 

51 Eden, following the Latin version, has translated the passage thus : 


wax in great abundance. Here is found a kind of sheep, 
the tail of which weighs fifteen or sixteen pounds, and with 
the head and neck quite black, but the whole of the rest of 
the body white. 1 There are also some other sheep, which 
have tails a brazzo long and twisted like vines, and 
they have the dewlap like that of a bull, which almost 
touches the ground. Also in this place I found a certain 
kind of cows, which had horns like a stag and were wild, 
which had been presented to the Sultan of the said city. 2 I 
also saw here other cows, which had a single horn in the 
forehead, which horn is a palmo and a half in length, and 
turns more towards the back of the cow than forwards. 3 The 
colour of these is red, that of the former is black. There is 
an abundance of provisions in this city, and there are many 
merchants here. The place has poor walls and a bad port, 

" It hath also oyle, not of olyues, but of some other thyng, I knowe not 
what." The word " zerzalino" puzzled me till I remembered how fre- 
quently our author uses the letter z to express the sound of j, when I 
perceived at once that he me&ntjzdjultin, (Forskjil writes if'dsjildjylari;" 
in India and farther east it is pronounced "jinjli" or ". jirjili ;" and 
Baretti gives " giuggiolana" as an Italian equivalent for sesame,) one of 
the Arabic names for the Sesamum Indicum, the oil of which is largely 
exported from Zaila. Honey and wax, also, are among its exports still. 

1 A correct description of the Berbera sheep generally. It is rare to 
see an entirely white one, or one marked otherwise than above stated ; 
they have also a long dewlap. The other species mentioned is less com- 
mon. The caudal extremity of the latter may be likened to an exagge- 
rated pig's tail. 

3 Most probably the oryx, though Varthema would have been more 
correct had he represented the horns as similar to those of an antelope. 
The oryx abounds inland from Zaila, is often shot, but very rarely taken 

3 We have here another monoceros, but it is quite clear that the ani- 
mals described differed from the unicorns which Varthema saw at Meccah 
(see p. 47 ante.) He may have met with some specimens of the African 
rhinoceros at Zaila ; but if so, they must have been brought thither 
from the distant interior, as the animal is not found in the neighbour- 
hood ; indeed, though the horns are frequently imported from thence to 
the Aden market, I have never heard of a live rhinoceros existing on 
that coast. 


nevertheless it is situated on level ground and the main- 
land. The king of this Zeila is a Moor, and has many- 
soldiers, both foot and horse. v The people are warlike. Their 
dress consists of a shirt. They are olive-coloured. They 
go badly armed, and are all Mahomraedans. 1 


As soon as the weather became favourable, we set sail and 
arrived at an island which is called Barbara, 2 the lord of 

1 A tolerably accurate description of the SomCdis, so called from 
Barr es-Sumdl, by which name the country from Ras Hafun on the 
eastern coast of Africa as far as Zaila westward is designated. The in- 
habitants, according to Cruttenden, " are divided into two great nations, 
who, both tracing their origin from the Arab province of Hadhramaut, 
are yet at bitter and endless feud with each other. The principal of 
these two great families is that to the eastward, or windward, of Burnt 
Island. It is divided into four large and three smaller tribes.... They 
claim as their common father Darrood, the son of Ishmail, the son of 
Okeil, the son of Arab, who came from Hadhramaut, and, marrying a 
daughter of the Ilaweea tribe residing on the north-east coast of Africa, 
became the first Muhammedan founder of the Somali nation to the east- 

" The second of these two nations extends from Burnt Island, or 
Bunder Jedid, to Zaila, and is divided into three great tri!>es, namely, 
the Haber-Gehajjis, the Haber-Awwal, and the Habert el-Jahlah, {Haber 
meaning the sons of), who were the children of Isaakh by three wives, 
the said Isaak having crossed over from Hadhramaut some time after his 
countrymen had founded the nation to the eastward, and settled at the 
town of Meyt, near Burnt Island, where his tomb exists to this day. 
Isaakh, finding his influence on the increase, owing to his intermarriage 
with a Galla tribe, made a sudden descent upon the neighbourhood of 
Berbera, then in the hands of a celebrated Galla chieftain, Sultan 
Ilarireh, and succeeded in obtaining possession of the country as far as 
Zaila... The patriarch Isaakh was gathered to his fathers at a very ad- 
vanced age, and was buried at the town of Meyt, leaving behind him a 
name which is respected to this day." Transactions of the Bombay 
Geographical Society, vol. viii. 

a This was undoubtedly Berbera, but it is not an island as Varthcma 


which with all the inhabitants are Moors. This island is 
small but good and very well peopled, and contains many- 
supposed. The name is generally applied to a deep and narrow inlet, 
forming a safe harbour during the north-east monsoon, and to the 
country in its neighbourhood. It is situated about one hundred and 
twenty miles to the south-east of Zaila. 

Dr. Vincent identifies Berbera with the Mosullon of the author of the 
Periplus, and that it " has existed as a port of great trade for several 
centuries," writes Cruttenden, " I conceive to be almost sufficiently 
proved by the fact of its being an annual rendezvous for so many nations 
to the present day, and from the time for this great meeting having 
been chosen so as to suit the set of the Red Sea and Indian Monsoons... 
The annual fair is one of the most interesting sights on the coast, if 
only from the fact of so many different and distant tribes being drawn 
together for a short time, to be again scattered in all directions. From 
April to the early part of October the place is utterly deserted, not even 
a fisherman being found there; but no sooner does the season change, 
than the inland tribes commence moving down towards the coast, and 
preparing their huts for their expected visitors." It is estimated that 
as many as 20,000 natives assemble annually at this fair to barter their 
gums, resins, ostrich feathers, coffee, ghee, oil, cattle, and sheep, with 
merchants from the Red Sea, Muscat, Baharain, Basra, Porebunder, 
Mandavie, Bombay, and other Indian ports. A considerable quantity 
of these commodities is also brought over to the Aden market by the 
Somalis, and the town and garrison there are almost entirely supplied 
with butcher's meat from Berbera. Speaking of that country Crutten- 
den further says : " The number of sheep, goats, she-camels, etc., found 
on these plains is perfectly incredible, fully realizing the account given 
of the flocks and herds of the patriarchs of old ; for many of the elders 
of these tribes own each more than 1,500 she-camels, and their flocks of 
sheep are literally uncounted." The territory is governed by the elders 
of the different tribes, but during the fair at Berbera no chief is acknow- 
ledged, the customs of by-gone years being the only recognized laws of 
the place. 

As Berbera was inhabited when our traveller arrived there, it is obvi- 
ous that his visit took place during the north-east monsoon, and that 
fact explains the circumstance of his having been driven back towards 
the African coast after sailing from Aden. The vessel probably encoun- 
tered one of those strong north-westerly gales, called Balat by the Arabs, 
which occasionally occur during that season along the north-east coast 
of Arabia. 

Although Varthema supplies us with few dates, we are enabled to 
verify this inference by several incidental remarks in the preceding nar- 


animals of every kind. The people are for the most part 
black, and their wealth consists more in animals than in 
other things. We remained here one day, and then set sail 
and took the route towards Persia. 

rativc. lie left Damascus on the 8th of April, reached Meccah in six 
weeks, and remained there several days at least. Was twelve days tra- 
velling to El-Medinah, where he also sojourned some time before starting 
for Juddah. He was detained a fortnight at the latter place, and was 
seventeen days more making the voyage to Aden. At Aden he was impri- 
soned for two months before being sent to Radaa,, where he arrived 
during the hot weather, for grapes were in season, and on his release he 
travelled through a great part of Yemen, which occupied him not less 
than six weeks more. These periods combined make between seven and 
eight months, so that he probably left Aden about the middle of Decem- 
ber, when the north-easterly monsoon was fully set in, and the fair at 
Berbera was at its height. 






When we had sailed about twelve days we arrived at a city 
which is called Diuobandierrumi, 1 that is, " Diu, the port of 

1 Though Vartherna heads this chapter as relating to Persia, the two 
places first named obviously belong to the Indian province of Guzerat, 
and the change in the course of the vessel in which he sailed, originally 
bound for the former country, may have been caused by the shipment of 
cargo for those places at Zaila and Berbera, between which and the 
Somali coast there is still considerable traffic. 

Diu Bander er-Rdm, which our traveller correctly renders " Diu the 
Port of the Turks" (or Greeks,) but which Eden, following the doubtful 
Latin version, mistranslates " The holy porte of Turkes," is undoubtedly 
the small island of Diu, situated in the Gulf of Cambay, at that period 
subject to Mahmud Bigarrah, the reigning Sultan of Guzerat. I have 
sought in vain for the distinctive title which Vartherna gives it, and 
which is Arabic in its form, in any other writer either before or after hi3 
time. The author of the Kurrat el-WyAn mentions a severe hurricane 
"at Bander Diu in the Indian Sea," in the month of January 1495, 
wherein many vessels were lost ; and the Ruah er-Ruah records the death, 
five years later, of one 'Abdallah ibn Muhammed ibu 'Alowi, a famous 
Seyyed of Yemen, " at Bander Diu in India ;" but the suffix " Er-Riimi" 
never occurs in their works in connexion with the place. The following 
extract from the Histoire des Voyages, relating the events of 1530, though 
it fails to solve the difficulty, goes to prove that the name was familiar 
in those parts, and that foreigners styled " Rutni" or " Rum" resided at 
Diu about that period : — " Badur [Bahadur], qui avait succecle au tron 
de Cambaye, se crut redevable de son salut a Mustapha. II lui accorda 
pour recompense le gouvernement de Baroche, avec le titre de Rami, 


the Turks," which city is situated a short distance from the 
mainland. When the tide rises it is an island, and when 
it falls you can pass over on foot. This city is subject to the 
Sultan of Combeia, and the captain of this Diuo is one 
named Menacheaz. We remained here two days. There is 
an immense trade in this city. Four hundred Turkish mer- 
chants reside here constantly. This city is surrounded by 
walls and contains much artillery within it. They have 
certain vessels which are called Thalac, which are somewhat 
less than galleys. We departed thence and went to a city 
which is called Goa, 1 distant from the above about three 

parce qu'il ctait Grec, et celui de Kan. Ainsi nous le verrons paroitre 
desormais sous le nom de Rumi-Kan." Vol. i. p. 118. 

The town of Diu is situated at the eastern extremity of the island, and 
is well fortified, being surrounded by a wall strengthened with towers at 
regular intervals. The channel between the island and the mainland is 
navigable only for fishing-boats and other small craft. Notwithstanding 
the excellence of the harbour for ships of moderate draught, there is but 
little traffic. (See Thornton's Gazetteer of India.) In this latter respect 
the place must have fallen off considerably since Varthema's time. 
M. Csesar Fredericks, who visited it a.d. 1563, describes it as "a small 
city, but of great trade, because there they lade very many great ships 
for the straights of Mecca and Ormus with merchandise." (Uakloyt's 
Voyages, vol. ii.) Diu was captured by the Portuguese in 1515, and 
remains in their possession still. In 1539 they repelled an attack on 
the place by the Turkish fleet under Suleiman Pasha, who was obliged 
to return to Suez. On his way thither he remained some time at Zebid, 
exciting the people to revolt, with a view to extort money from the 
Imam. Such is the opinion of the author of the Rudh er-Ruuh, who 
adds : — "I have, moreover, heard from credible witnesses, that he accepted 
rich gifts from the powers in India to induce him not to prosecute the war 
in that quarter." 

1 This was unquestionably Gogha, or, as it is now usually called, Gogo, 
a town situate in the peninsula of Katty war, on the western shore of the 
Gulf of Cambay, about one hundred miles to the north east of Diu. 
Forbes describes it at present as " a neat and thriving seaport town, 
containing upwards of eight thousand inhabitants, and possessing the 
best roadstead in the Gulf of Cambay. Its seamen, called Goghilrees, 
partly of the Mohammedan faith, and partly Koolee or Hindoo, the 
descendants of the navigators fostered by the kings of Unhilwara, still 
maintain their ancient reputation, and form the best and most trusted 


days' journey. This Goa is a district of large extent and 
great traffic, and is fat and wealthy. The inhabitants, how- 
ever, are all Muhammedans. We quitted Goa and went to 
another district called Guilfar, which is most excellent and 
abounding in everything 1 There is a good seaport there, 
from which port setting sail with propitious winds we arrived 
at another port which is called Meschet. 3 

portion of every Indian crew that sails the sea under the flag of Eng- 
land. On the south-west corner of the town, and outside the circuit of 
the present wall, may, however, be observed the site of the ancient 
citadel... The situation was admirably selected for defensive purposes, 
being the highest in the neighbourhood, and commanding an extensive 
view of the gulf and the island of Perumbh, or Peerum, on the one side, 
and on the other of the whole country as far as the foot of the Khokura 
hills." (Ms Mala, vol. i. p. 318.) In Hamilton's time (1688-1723) Gogo 
was " governed by an officer from the Great Mogul." It was taken from 
the Mahrattas by the British in 1S05, and now forms part of the district 
of Ahmedabad. 

1 From Gogo, Varthema must have crossed the Indian Sea and 
entered the Persian Gulf, for Julfar is situated within the Gulf, on the 
western side of Mussendora, about twenty miles to the south of that 
cape. It is one of five towns belonging to the Shihiyyin Arabs, and its 
inhabitants form the more stationary and civilized portion of that tribe, 
beiug engaged chiefly in pearl-fishing, trade, and agriculture. Their 
food consists of dates, wheat, barley, meat, and fish in abundance. The 
remainder of the tribe is occupied in gaining a precarious livelihood by 
fishing in the small bays on the coast, or in wandering over the arid rocks 
of the interior, which supply a scanty vegetation for their flocks. The 
male adults of the tribe are said to amount to 14,000. 

Julfar was captured by the Portuguese in the early part of the six- 
teenth century. They maintained an establishment there, protected by 
a fort, for the purpose of pearl-fishing, until their expulsion from the 
gulf, when it reverted to the Arabs. In 1819 the town and fort were 
destroyed by a combined British and Maskat expedition, in retaliation 
for several acts of piracy committed by vessels belonging to the tribe. 

2 Maskat (Muscat), the principal seaport town of the province of 
Oman, or, more correctly, 'Amman. As that place is situated on the 
north-east coast of Arabia, bordering the Indian Sea, in lat. 23° 28' N., 
long. 59° 19' E., a retrograde voyage was made of two hundred miles. 
The native vessel, however, does not appear to have had a fixed 
course, although her destination on leaving Aden was the Persian Gulf; 
but the Arab skipper was probably guided in his movements by the 





Pursuing our journey, we departed from Meschet and went 
to the noble city of Orraus, 1 which is extremely beautiful. 

freights which he picked up here and there on the coast, and our 
traveller availed himself of the opportunities thus afforded to satisfy his 
desire for seeing new countries. 

Maskat, at the period of Varthema's visit, was governed by a native 
sovereign who resided at Nezwa, two days' journey inland. It was 
captured by the Portuguese, together with several other places on the 
Bfitinah coast, in the early part of the sixteenth century. They re- 
tained possession till 1640, when they were expelled from the country 
by Sultan Bin Seif, in whose family the sovereignty of Amman remains 
to the present day. 

1 'Abd er-Razzak, who visited the island of Hormuz sixty years before 
Varthema, speaks in similar terms of its commercial prosperity. (See 
India in the Fifteenth Century, Hakluyt Society's Publications, pp. 
5, 6.) Ralph Fitch, in 1583, describes it as " an island in circuit about 
five and twenty or thirty miles, and the driest island in the world ; for 
there is nothing growing in it but only salt ; for the water, wood, or 
victuals, and all things necessary, come out of Persia, which is about 
twelve miles from thence. The Portuguese have a castle there, wherein 
there is a captain for the king of Portugal, having under him a con- 
venient number of soldiers, whereof some part remain in the castle and 
some in the town. In this town are merchants of all nations, and many 
Moors and Gentiles. Here is a very great trade of all sorts of spices, 
drugs, silk, cloth of silk, fine tapestry of Persia, great store of pearls, 
which come from the isle of Baharim [Baharein], and are the best pearls 
of all others, and many horses of Persia, which serve all India. They 
have a Moor to their king, who is chosen and governed by the Portu- 
guese." Pinkeiiton's Voyages, vol. ix. p. 407. 

Hormuz was captured by the Portuguese under Alberquerque in 1508, 
who were expelled in turn by Shah Abbas, assisted by the British, in 
1G22, since which time it has been a dependency of Persia. Shah Abbas 
transferred its commerce to Gombrun, or Gamrun, situate on the conti- 
nent, and styled after him Bander Abbas. The island was a dependency 
of Persia when Marco Polo visited it towards the middle of the 13th 
century, and, although governed by an Arab ruler, it was tributary to 
that power when taken by the Portuguese, who allowed him to retain 
his dignity on payment of an annual tribute of 15,000 ashrafi, about 


It is an island, and is the chief, that is, as a maritime place, 
and for merchandise. It is distant from the mainland ten 
or twelve miles. In this said island there is not sufficient 
water or food, but all comes from the mainland. Near this 
island, at a distance of three days' journey, they fish up the 
largest pearls which are found in the world, and the manner 
of fishing for them is as you shall hear. There are certain 
fishers with some little boats, who throw out a large stone 
attached to a thick rope, one from the stern and one from 
the prow, in order that the said boats may remain firm : they 
throw down another rope, also with a stone, to the bottom. 
In the middle of the boat is one of these fishers, who hangs 
a couple of bags round his neck, and ties a large stone to his 
feet, and goes fifteen paces under water, and remains there 
as long as he is able, in order to find the oysters in which 
are pearls. As he finds them he puts them into the bags, and 
then leaves the stone which he had at his feet, and comes up 
by one of the said ropes. 1 Sometimes, as many as three hun- 
dred vessels belonging to different countries are assembled 
at the said city, the Sultan of which is a Mahommedan. 

.£1,250 of our money. {Ilistoire des Voyages, vol. i. p. 110.) It is now 
farmed of the Persian Shah by the Sultan of Maskat, together with 
Bunder Abbas, Minau, and several other places on the mainland, for a 
yearly payment of 16,000 Toonians=.£7,G00 ; but it has lost all its 
former trade and prosperity, and its population consists of about four 
hundred inhabitants, mostly employed in the salt trade and as fishermen. 
The island has no water except what is saved in reservoirs during the 
rains. There are a number of these reservoirs in good repair, and the 
ruins of some hundreds, showing what the place was in former times. 
The old Portuguese lighthouse is still standing, though fast falling to 
decay. Large quantities of salt are exported from the island to all 
parts of the Persian Gulf and the coasts of Arabia. The fort is garri- 
soned by a hundred men belonging to the Sultan of Maskat. The chan- 
nel between Hormuz and the mainland directly opposite is only four 
miles broad. Between the island and Bunder Abbas it averages between 
eleven and twelve. 

1 This is a correct description of the pearl fishery as it exists at the 
present day. 





At the time when I visited this country there happened 
that which you shall hear. The Sultan of Ormus had eleven 
male children. The youngest was considered to be simple, 
that is, half a fool : the eldest was looked upon as a devil 
unchained. Also the said Sultan had brought up two slaves, 
the sons of Christians, that is, of those of Prester John, 
whom he had purchased when quite young, and he loved 
them like his own children. 1 They were gallant cavaliers 
and lords of castles. One night, the eldest son of the Sultan 
put out the eyes of his father, mother, and all his brothers, 
excepting the half-witted one ; then he carried them into 
the chamber of his father and mother, and put fire in the 
midst, and burnt the chamber with the bodies and all that 
was therein. Early in the morning what had taken place 
became known, and the city arose at the rumour, and he 
fortified himself in the palace, and proclaimed himself Sultan. 
The younger brother, who was considered a fool, did not, 
however, show himself to be such a fool as he was supposed 
to be ; for, hearing what had taken place, he took refuge 
in a Moorish mosque, saying : " Vualla occuane saithan 
uchatelabu eculo cuane," that is, " O God, my brother is a 
devil ; he has killed my father, my mother, and all my 
brothers, and after having killed them he has burnt them." 2 
At the expiration of fifteen days the city became tranquil. 

1 Ilabeshi, or Abyssinian slaves, mostly of Christian parentage, were 
the roost trusted and favourite soldiers of the sultans and other chiefs of 
Arabia at this period. They were also imported largely into India, and 
frequently acquired considerable influence in the courts of the native 

- W Allah, akh&na shaitdn : hua kdtel abdh, wa-hul a&hwdnana. By 
God ! our brother is a devil : he has killed his father, and all my 



The Sultan sent for one of the slaves above mentioned and 
said to him : " Thale inte Mahometh." The slave, who 
was named Mahometh, answered : " Escult iasidi," that is, 
" What dost thou say, lord ? Said the Sultan : " An ne 
Soldan ?" that is, " Am I Sultan ?" Mahometh replied : 
" Heu valla siti inte Soldan," that is, "Yes, by God, thou 
art Sultan." 1 Then the Sultan took him by the hand and 
made much of him, and said to him : " Roa chatel zaibei 
anneiati arba ochan sechala," that is, " Go and kill thy com- 
panion, and I will give thee five castles." 2 Mahometh re- 
plied : " Iasidi anue iacul menau men saibi theletin sane 
vualla sidi ancasent," that is, " O lord, I have eaten with 
my companion thirty years and acted with him, I cannot 
bring my mind to do such a thing." 3 Then said the Sultan : 
" Well, let it alone." Four days afterwards, the said Sultan 
sent for the other slave, who was named Cairn, and made 
the same speech to him that he had made to his companion, 
that is, that he should go and kill. " Bizemele," Cairn said 
at once, (s erechman erachin Iasidi," that is, " So be it, 
lord, in the name of God ;" 4 and then he armed himself 
secretly and went immediately to find Mahometh his com- 
panion. When Mahometh saw him, he looked him fixedly 
in the face, and said to him : " O traitor, thou canst not 
deny it, for I detect thee by thy countenance ; but look now, 
for I will slay thee sooner than that thou slay me." Cairn, 
who saw himself discovered and known, drew forth his 
dagger, and threw it at the feet of Mahometh, and falling 

1 Tadl anta, Muhammed. Come hither, Muhammed. Aish kult, ya 
sidi ? What do you say, sir 1 Ana sultan 1 Am I sultan 1 Ay w" 1 Al- 
lah, sidi, anta sultan. Yes, sir, you are sultan. 

2 Ruh aktal sdhibek, iva-ana 'aattk arbda aw khams kalda. Go kill 
your comrade, and I will give you four or five castles. 

3 Ya sidi, ana akalt mda , u rain sabi, — thldthin sana . W'Allah, sidi, 
anlcdssir. Oh, sir, I have eaten with him from childhood, — thirty years. 
By God, sir, I shall fail. 

4 B'ism-Illah, er-Rahm&n, er-Rahim. In the name of God, the Piti- 
ful, the Compassionate. A formula frequently used to express assent. 



on his knees before him said : " O, my lord, pardon me 
although I deserve death, and if it seem good to thee take 
these arms and kill me, for I came to kill thee." Mahometh 
replied : " It may be well said that thou art a traitor, having 
been with me, and acted with me, and eaten together with 
me for thirty years, and then at last to wish to put me to 
death in so vile a manner. Thou poor creature, dost thou 
not see that this man is a devil. Rise, however, for I par- 
don thee. But in order that thou mayest understand, know 
that this man urged me, three days ago, to kill thee, but 
I would not in any way consent. Now, leave all to God, 
but go and do as I shall tell thee. Go to the Sultan, and 
tell him that thou hast slain me." Cairn replied : " I am 
content," and immediately went to the Sultan. When the 
Sultan saw him he said to him : " Well, hast thou slain thy 
friend ?" Cairn answered : " Yes, sir, by God." Said the 
Sultan : " Come here," and he went close to the Sultan, 
who seized him by the breast and killed him by blows of 
his dagger. Three days afterwards Mahometh armed him- 
self secretly and went to the Sultan's chamber, who, when 
he saw him, was disturbed and exclaimed : " O dog, son of 
a dog, art thou still alive ?" Said Mahometh : " I am alive, 
in spite of thee, and I will kill thee, for thou art worse than 
a dog or a devil ;" and in this way, with their arms in their 
hands, they fought awhile. At length Mahometh killed the 
Sultan, and then fortified himself in the palace. And be- 
cause he was so much beloved in the city, the people all ran 
to the palace crying out : " Long live Mahometh the Sul- 
tan !" and he continued Sultan about twenty days. When 
these twenty days were passed, he sent for all the lords and 
merchants of the city, and spoke to them in this wise : 
" That that which he had done he had been obliged to do ; 
that he well knew that he had no right to the supreme 
power, and he entreated all the people that they would 
allow him to make king that son who was considered crazy ;" 


and thus he was made king. It is true, however, that Ma- 
hometh governs everything. All the city said : " Surely this 
man must be the friend of God." Wherefore he was made 
governor of the city and of the Sultan, the Sultan being of 
the condition above mentioned. 1 You must know that there 
are generally in this city four hundred foreign merchants, 
who traffic in silks, pearls, jewels, and spices. The common 
food of this city consists more of rice than of bread, because 
corn does not grow in this place. 




Having heard this lamentable event, and seen the customs 
of the abovenamed city and island of Ormus, departing 
thence I passed into Persia, and travelling for twelve days 
I found a city called Eri, 3 and the country is called Cora- 

1 I have not succeeded in finding any historical notices corroborative 
of the events recorded in this chapter ; but the following extract from 
the Histoire des Voyages, referring to the capture of the island by Albu- 
querque in 1508, four years subsequent to Varthema's visit, tends to 
confirm several of the principal facts narrated : — " Albuquerque trouva 
sur le trone Sayf Addin, jeune prince d'environ douze ans, dont les 
affaires etoient gouvernees par un esclave adroit et courageux." Vol. i. 
p. 109. 

2 Eri or Heri is the ancient name of Herat, and the question is, 
whether Varthema means that city, and, if so, whether he personally 
visited it. His description is sufficiently accurate to warrant an in- 
ference in the affirmative. Herat at the time was the capital of Khoras- 
san, and the residence of Sultan Husein Mirza, a descendant of Timour. 
Its commercial and general prosperity under that enlightened ruler has 
been perpetuated by the celebrated historian Khondemir, and the natural 
resources of the country correspond with our traveller's account of 
them. Moreover, Varthema speaks as an eye-witness, and thus far I 
have not discovered a single instance inclining me to doubt his testimony 
as such. Besides, there appears no sufficient reason why, if he had not 
personally visited Herat, he should not have described it as he does 


zani, which would be the same as to say " The Ilomagna." 
The king of Corazani dwells in this city, where there is 
great plenty, and an abundance of stuffs, and especially 
of silk, so that in one day you can purchase here three thou- 
sand or four thousand camel loads of silk. The district is 
most abundant in articles of food, 1 and there is also a great 
market for rhubarb. 2 I have seen it purchased at six pounds 

Sarnarcand in a subsequent chapter, wherein he repeatedly states that 
his information is based on hearsay and the authority of others. 

The only difficulty is the time occupied by our traveller in performing 
the journey. The distance between the coast opposite Hormuz and 
Herat is about six hundred miles, and, according to Abd-er-Razzak's 
itinerary, he was twenty-two days on the road. True, Varthema says 
distinctly, that, after travelling twelve days, he reached Eri ; but it is by 
no means clear that Hormuz or Bunder Abbas was his starting-point, for 
he first " passed into Persia," from which we may infer that he had pene- 
trated some way into the country before setting out for Herat. 

In the following chapter Varthema gives an account of his route from 
Herat to Shiraz, which he accomplished in twenty or twenty-three days, 
the usual length of the caravan journey between the two places. That 
coincidence may be fairly considered as a corroborative proof of our 
traveller's personal visit to Herat. 

1 " Herat is the most fertile country in the whole of Khorassan. The 
suburbs are covered with rich and green orchards, producing consider- 
able quantities of fruits. Silk is a native production of Herat. It is 
produced in great quantities, and is exported to many countries. The 

wheat is of many kinds Cotton is abundantly cultivated in Herat, and 

sometimes is sent to Mashad. Mash, adas, nakhud, lemghash or niuth, 
shamled or halbah, jawari and lobia, are also among its productions. 
Sebist andshaftal grow exuberantly, and are given to horses. Opium is 
much grown here, and is transported to Bokhara and other places." 
Mohun Lall's Travels, pp. 272-275. 

2 Herat is styled by the natives the key of the commerce between 
Turkestan, Afghanistan, Persia, and India. It is much less so now 
than it was formerly. At the time of Varthema's visit it is highly 
probable that it was the principal highway between Mongolia and 
Thibet, the chief rhubarb-growing countries, and the West. That fact 
would account for the abundance of the drug found in the market of 
Herat. Tavernier mentions a northern road between Bhutan or Lassa 
and Cabul ; and Bernier, writing in 1655, says : " It is not yet twenty 
years that there went caravans every year from Cashmere, which crossed 
all those mountains of the great Tibet, and arrived in about three 


for the ducat, according to our use, that is, twelve ounces to 
the pound. This city contains about 6,000 or 7,000 hearths. 1 
The inhabitants are all Mohammedans. I quitted this place 
and travelled twenty days on the mainland, finding cities 
and castles very well peopled. 


I arrived at a large and fine river, which is called by the 
people there Eufra, 2 but, so far as 1 can judge, I believe 
that it is the Euphrates, on account of its great size. Travel- 
ling onwards for three days to the left hand, but following 
the river, I found a city which is named Schirazo, and this 
city receives its lord, who is a Persian and a Mahommedan, 
from the Persians. In this city there is a great abundance 
of jewels, that is, of turquoises, 3 and an infinite quantity of 
Balass rubies. It is true that they are not produced here, 

months at Cataja... bringing back musk, cinnamon, rhubarb, and naa- 
rniron." (Pinkerton's Voyages, vol. viii. p. 221.) I notice in the 
Description of Persia, contained in the same Collection, that " a kind 
of rhubarb, with which they purge their cattle," grows in that country ; 
but the writer adds, " the best rhubarb comes from China, or rather 
from Eastern Tartary." Ibid. vol. ix. p. 181. 

1 Ferrier estimated the population of Herat in 1845 at from 20,000 
to 22,000 souls. Caravan Journeys, p. 166. 

3 As there is no river between Herat and Shiraz bearing any resem- 
blance in name to that above mentioned, I am inclined to think that if, 
as is very probable, his route was by Yezd, Varthema must have struck 
upon the Pulwan, near Merghab, about eighty miles to the north-east of 
Shiraz, from which point there appears to be a highroad on the " left 
hand," or east, of that river, leading to the latter city by Istakar. The 
Pulwan flows into the Bendemir, which is a rapid stream crossed by a 
bridge three hundred feet wide, and Varthema must have passed that 
also before reaching Shiraz. 

3 Shiraz is a great mart for turquoises. The best stones are found in 
the mountains near Nishapore in Khorassan. Malcolm's History of 
Persia, vol. ii. p. 515. 


but come (as is reported) from a city which is called Balach- 
sam. And in the said city there is a very large quantity 
of ultra marine, and much tucia and musk. 1 You must 
know that musk is rarely met with in our parts, which is not 
adulterated. The fact is this, for I have seen some experi- 
ments on this wise. Take a bladder of musk in the morn- 
ing, fasting, and break it, and let three or four men in file 
smell it, and it will immediately make blood flow from the 
nose, and this happens because it is real musk and not 
adulterated. I asked how long its goodness continued. 
Some merchants answered me: " That if it were not adul- 
terated it lasted ten years." Upon this it occurred to me 
that that which comes to our part is adulterated by the 
hands of these Persians, who are the most cunning men in 
intellect, and at falsifying things, of any nation in the world. 
And I likewise will say of them, that they are the best com- 
panions and the most liberal of any men who inhabit the earth. 
I say this because I have experienced it with a Persian mer- 
chant whom I met in this city of Schirazo. However, he was 
of the city of Eri above mentioned, in Corazani. This same 
merchant knew me two years previously in Mecca, and he 
said to me : " Iunus, what are you doing here ? Are you 
not he who some time ago went to Mecca?" I answered 

1 Badakhshan, in the Khanat of Kunduz, is still famous for its lapis 
lazuli quarries and ruby mines. Tucia, spodium ; or, more probably, 
ti'it/ja, the Persian and Arabic name for antimony, which is used exten- 
sively in the preparation of the kohl, a collyrium. Antimony is said to 
abound in Persia. (Pinkekton's Voyages, vol. ix. p. 181.) Musk probably 
reached Badakhshan from Thibet and Tartary, where the best quality 
is found. Pigafetta writing in 1522 says : " The grains of musk brought 
to Europe are no other than small pieces of goat's flesh steeped in real 
musk." (Pinkekton, vol. xi. p. 378.) I am not able to vouch for the 
truth of Varthema's experiment, but it is well known that " some per- 
sons, from idiosyncrasy, cannot endure the remote odour of musk : it 
produces headache, giddiness, nausea, and fainting. Drowsiness and 
stupor have occasionally been induced by it when given in small medici- 
nal doses." Brande, Dictionary of Materia Medica. 


that I was, and that I was going about exploring the world. 
He answered me : " God be praised ! for I shall have a com- 
panion who will explore the world with me." We remained 
fifteen days in the same city of Schirazo. And this merchant, 
who was called Cazazionor, 1 said : " Do not leave me, for we 
will explore a good part of the world." And thus we set 
ourselves together en route to go towards Sambragante. 




The merchants say that the present Sambragante 2 is a city 
as large as Cairo. The king of the said city is a Mohamme- 
dan. Some merchants say that he has sixty thousand horse- 
men, and they are all white people and warlike. We did 
not proceed farther ; and the reason was, that the SofH 
was going through this country putting everything to fire 
and flame ; and especially he put to the sword all those who 
believed in Bubachar and Othman and Aumar, who are all 
companions of Mahomet ; but he leaves unmolested those 
who believe in Mahomet and Ali, and protects them. 3 Then 

1 The first part of this word is undoubtedly Khawaja, generally ab- 
breviated into K/wja, equivalent to our English " Mister." 

2 Samarcand. 

3 The occurrence of these fierce religious dissensions between the two 
principal sects of Islam at this period is corroborated by contempo- 
raneous history. Shah Isma'il es-Sufi, the founder of the Sufawian 
dynasty, attained sovereign power over Persia and Khorassan about a.d. 
1500. Deeply imbued with the Shiah doctrines of his austere father, 
Haidar, who had endeavoured to revive the opinions of a famous Silfi 
derwish, he put himself at the head of his adherents when only fourteen 
years old, and, taking advantage of the religious enthusiasm of his dis- 
ciples, eventually succeeded in subjugating the whole country, and in con- 
verting the great mass of the people to the Shiah creed. This was not 
effected without great strife and bloodshed, and Varthema's visit must 
have occurred when the contention between the rival factions was at its 
height. " The Persians dwell with rapture on the character of Isma'il, 


my companion said to me : " Come here, Iunus : in order 
that you may be certain that I wish you well, and that you 
may have reason to know that I mean to exercise good fellow- 
ship towards you, I will give you a niece of mine who is 
called Samis, 1 that is, the Sun. And truly she had a name 
which suited her, for she was extremely beautiful. And he 
said to me further : " You must know now that I do not travel 
about the world because I am in want of wealth ; but I go 
for my pleasure, and in order to see and to know many 
things." And with this we set ourselves on our way, and 
returned towards Eri. When we had arrived at his house, 
he immediately shewed me his said niece, with whom I pre- 
tended to be greatly pleased, although my mind was intent 
on other things. We returned to the city of Ormus at the 
end of eight days, and embarked on board ship, and steered 
towards India, and arrived at a port which is called Cheo. 2 

whom they deem not only the founder of a great dynasty, but the per- 
son to whom that faith, in which they glory, owes its establishment as a 
national religion. He is styled in their histories Shah Shian, or ' the 
King of the Sheahs.' " Malcolm's History of Persia, vol. i. p. 505. 

1 Shams, the sun. 

2 As it is evident from the succeeding chapter that this place was in 
Scind, I find no difficulty in identifying it with Jooa (sometimes written 
Joah, Joaah, and Kow), one of the estuaries or creeks of the Indus. 
Dr. Ileddle, in his memoirs of that river, describes the raj or village of 
Joah as four miles and a half from the sea by the winding of the stream. 
The largest sized native boats, which frequent this branch of the river 
for grain, are obliged to remain there, and their cargoes are brought 
down in flat-bottomed boats, called doondies." Bombay Government 
Selections, No. xvii. pp. 434-5. 




Having promised at the commencement, if I remember 
rightly, to treat all subjects with brevity, in order that my 
narrative might not be wearisome, I will continue to relate 
concisely those things which appeared to me the most worthy 
to be known, and the most interesting. 

We entered India where, near to the said port [Cheo], there 
is a very large river called the Indus, which Indus is near to a 
city called Combeia. This city is situated three miles inland, 
and to the south of the said Indus. You must know that 
you cannot go to the said city either with large or middling- 
sized ships, excepting at high water. There is a river which 
goes to the said city, and the tide flows up three or four 
miles. 1 You must know that the waters rise in the reverse 

1 Varthema appears to have had very confused notions respecting the 
relative positions of Cambay (more correctly, Khumbdyut) and the 
Indus. This is not surprising, since Philip Baldseus, writing a century 
and a half later, describes it as " situated at the entrance of one of the 
largest channels of that river." (Collection of Voyages, vol. iii. p. 
566.) Nicold de' Conti, who preceded our traveller by fifty years, places it 
more accurately " in the second gulf after having passed the mouth of 
the Indus." {India in the Fifteenth Century, iii. p. 19.) However, he 
correctly locates it to the south of the Indus, and near another river, 
which was undoubtedly the Myhee, and his description of that estuary is 
confirmed by the following extract from Horsburgh : — " Opposite the 



way to ours ; for with us they rise when the moon is at the 
full, but they increase here when the moon is on the wane. 1 
This city of Combeia is walled, after our fashion ; and truly 
it is a most excellent city, abounding in grain and very good 
fruits. In this district there are eight or nine kinds of small 
spices, that is to sa} r , turbidi, gallanga, spiconardo, saphetica, 

city of Cambay, seven or eight miles from the sea, the width is probably 
about three miles, and the water is so shallow from side to side, at low 
water spring tides, that the ground is left almost dry, and navigation 
is impracticable even for the smallest boats." India Directory, vol. 
i. p. 475. 

1 This is an error iuto which Varthema may have been led by the 
accounts which he heard, or by his own limited observation, of the pecu- 
liar and extraordinary tides in the Gulf of Cambay, called the Bore, 
which is thus described by the late Captain Ethersey of the Indian navy : 
" The eastern or principal Bore rises five miles to the W.S.W. of Cambay 
Creek, and is not perceptible on the neaps without the previous springs 
have been very high, when it may be observed slightly through the 
quarter. It generally commences when the springs begin to lift, the 
wave increasing daily in height as the tides gain strength, and is at its 
greatest height about two days after the new and full moon. Its height 
depends upon the position of the moon with respect to the earth, and 
consequently on the rise and strength of the tide; for at new moon, 
when she is in perigee, at which time the highest tides occur, the wave 
of the Bore will be the greatest ; and at full moon, when she is in apo- 
gee, and the low tides lower than any other springs, it will be least. It 
also varies with the night and day tide, because the higher the tide the 
greater is its velocity; and as the two tides differ from six to eight feet, 
and still the flood of both runs the same length of time, the highest tide 
must have the greatest velocity; and hence the wave of the Bore will be 
highest with the greatest tide." {Bombay Government Selections, No. 
xvii. p. 87.) Dr. Vincent recognizes the Bore in the account which the 
author of the Periplus gives of the navigation of the Gulf of Cambay 
{Commerce and Navigation of the Ancients, etc., vol. ii. p. 396); and so 
imposing is its appearance, and so striking its effects, that we cannot be 
surprised at the notice which it attracted from the early travellers to 
India. Forbes says : " The first rush of the spring tide is irresistible in 
its force, and affords a scene which only an eyewitness can fully realize. 
A perpendicular wall of water, three or four feet in height, and extend- 
ing across the Gulf as far as the eye can reach, approaches at the rate 
of twelve miles an hour in speed, and with an alarming noise, carrying 
certain destruction to the mariner whose ignorance or foolhardiness leads 
him to neglect its warning voice." Ras Mala, vol. i. p. 319. 


and lacra, 1 with other spices, the names of which I do not 
remember. An immense quantity of cotton is produced here, 
so that every year forty or fifty vessels are laden with cotton 
and silk stuffs, which stuffs are carried into different countries. 
In this kingdom of Combeia also, about six days' journey, 
there is the mountain whence cornelians are extracted, and 
the mountain of chalcedonies. Nine days' journey from 
Combeia there is another mountain in which diamonds are 
found. 2 


We will now declare the estate and condition of the sultan 
of this Combeia, who is called the Sultan Machamuth. About 

1 The Latin version of Varthema omits all these names. The Italian 
edition in Ramuslo has " turbitti, galanga, spico nardo, assa fetida, e 
lacca." The first is the well known drug turbith, the root of a species 
of convolvulus (C. Turpethum, L.) which is found throughout India, 
and also in the islands of the South Sea. I find it enumerated under 
that name in a list of drugs purchased by Captain John Saris in 1612 
from the captain of a native vessel which had arrived at Mokha from 
Surat. Galanga, according to Baretti, is a kind of arrow-root used 
medicinally. Spikenard and assafostida are well known Indian drugs. 
Lacca is, doubtless, the dye produced by the lac insect, of which Dr. 
Buchanan gives a full account in his Journey through Mysore, Canara, 
and Malabar. (See Pinkerton's Voyages, vol. viii. pp. 760-1.) Nicolo 
de' Conti, writing of Cambay, says : " it abounds in spikenard, lac, 
indigo, myrobalans, and silk ;" and Nikitin mentions "lek daakyk dalon" 
as among its produce. These latter I take to be, lac ; 'akeeh, the Arabic 
for agates ; and ddl, the Hindostani for lentils, phaseolus aconitifolius. 
(See India in the Fifteenth Century, ii. p. 20 ; iii. p. 19.) 

2 Cambay is still famous for agates, cornelians, and onyxes, which are 
wrought into a great variety of ornaments. The best agates and corne- 
lians are found in a peculiar stratum, about thirty feet below the sur- 
face, in a small tract among the Rajpeepla Hills, on the banks of the 
Nerbudda, about seventy miles to the south-east of Cambay. I am not 
aware of any diamond mines existing in or about Guzerat. Probably 
those at Golconda are indicated. 


forty years ago he captured this kingdom from a king of the 
Guzerati, which Guzerati are a certain race which eats 
nothing that has blood, and never kills any living thing. And 
these same people are neither Moors nor heathens. 1 It is my 

' The Sultan at the time was Fath Khan, entitled Mahmud Bigarrah, 
who began to reign a.d. 1459 and died in 1511 ; but our author is not 
so correct in his history of the succession. Guzerat became independent 
of Delhi under Dhafir Khan, who assumed the sovereignty of the pro- 
vince in 1408. For obvious reasons that event does not tally with the 
occurrence referred to by Varthema. The mention of " a king of the 
Guzerattis", who was neither a Moor nor a Heathen, inclines me to 
think that he distorted the accounts which he had heard of Mahmud 
Khan's successful wars with some of the native princes into the apocry- 
phal statement respecting the time and manner of his accession to 
supreme power. The most probable event in the history of that sove- 
reign which may have led to this misapprehension, was his final capture 
of the strong forts of Girnar and Janagarh from Rao Mandalik in 1472. 
Those fortresses are in Kattywar, a province of Guzerat, and appear to 
have been inhabited at the time chiefly by Jains. Writing of Girnar, 
Postans says : " The whole of this extraordinary mount is invested with 
peculiar sanctity, the origin of which would seem to be of high antiquity. 
That the present system of worship would seem to be a graft of the 
ancient Buddhist faith which obtained here, there can be no doubt. 
The edicts of Pyadasi testify abundantly that the hill of Girinagar and 
its neighbourhood was originally a stronghold of the Monotheists, whose 
form of worship has now degenerated into the modern system of Jain- 
ism." {Notes on a Journey to Girnar, p. 882.) I am the more inclined 
to draw the foregoing inference from Varthema's description of the 
creed and habits of the people to whom he refers ; for the Jains generally, 
who are numerous in and about Cambay, are very careful of animal life. 
The Shravakas, one of the Jain castes, have many Pinjreepols, or hos- 
pitals for animals and reptiles, however vile. They have also another 
peculiar establishment called a Jevkotee. This is a dome, with a door 
large enough at the top for a man to creep in. In these repositories 
wevils, and other insects which the Shravakas may find in their grain, 
are provided with food by their charity and extraordinary protection 
to everything containing life. Moreover, they profess to worship the 
Supreme being alone, and wholly reject the agency of Devtas and the 
Aryhuntas, or Gooroos. (See Bombay Government Selections, No. xxxix. 
p. 342-5.) Fitch notices the Pinjreepoles. He says : " In Cambaia they 
will kill nothing, nor have anything killed. In the town they have 
hospitals to keep lame dogs and cats, and for birds. They will give 
meat to the ants." Pinkehton's Voyaaes, vol. ix. p. 409. 


opinion that if they were baptized, they would all be saved 
by virtue of their works, for they never do to others what 
they would not that others should do unto them. Their 
dress is this : some wear a shirt, and some go naked, with 
the exception of a piece of cloth about their middle, having 
nothing on their feet or on their legs. On their heads they 
wear a large red cloth ; and they are of a tawny colour. And 
for this, their goodness, the aforesaid sultan took from them 
their kingdom. 

You shall now hear the manner of living of this Sultan 
Machamuth. In the first place he is a Mohammedan, toge- 
ther with all his people. He has constantly twenty thousand 
horsemen. In the morning, when he rises, there come to 
his palace fifty elephants, on each of which a man sits astride ; 
and the said elephants do reverence to the sultan, and they 
have nothing else to do. So in like manner when he has 
risen from his bed. And when he eats, there are fifty or 
sixty kinds of instruments, namely, trumpets, drums of several 
sorts, and flageolets, and fifes, with many others, which for 
the sake of brevity I forbear mentioning. When the sultan 
eats, the said elephants again do reverence to him. When 
the proper time shall come, I will tell you of the intelligence 
and understanding which these animals possess. The said 
sultan has mustachios under his nose so long that he ties 
them over his head as a woman would tie her tresses, and 
he has a white beard which reaches to his girdle. 1 Every 
day he eats poison. Do not, however, imagine that he fills 
his stomach with it ; but he eats a certain quantity, so that 
when he wishes to destroy any great personage he makes 
him come before him stripped and naked, and then eats 

1 'Ali Muhammed Khan, in his History of Guzerat, gives the follow- 
ing account of Sultan Mahmud : — " Regarding his surname of Bigarrah, 
the people of Guzerat say, that each of his mustachios being large and 
twisted like a cow's horn, and such a cow being called Bigarrah, they 
thus obtained for him the name." Bird's Translation, pp. 202-3. 


certain fruits which are called chofole, which resemble a 
muscatel nut. He also eats certain leaves of herbs, which 
are like the leaves of the sour orange, called by some tam- 
boli; and then he eats some lime of oyster shells, together 
with the above mentioned things. When he has masticated 
them well, and has his mouth full, he spurts it out upon that 
person whom he wishes to kill, so that in the space of half 
an hour he falls to the ground dead. This sultan has also 
three or four thousand women, and every night that he sleeps 
with one she is found dead in the morning. 1 Every time 
that he takes off his shirt, that shirt is never again touched 
by any one ; and so of his other garments ; and every day 
he chooses new garments. My companion asked how it was 
that this sultan eats poison in this manner. Certain mer- 
chants, who were older than the sultan, answered that his 
father had fed him upon poison from his childhood. 

Let us leave the sultan, and return to our journey, that 

1 A similar account is repeated by Odoardo Barbosa, who appears to 
have visited Carabay shortly after Mahroud Khan's death. He says : 
" I have heard that he was brought up from childhood to take poison ; 
for his father fearing that, in accordance with the usage of the country, 
he migbt be killed by that means, took this precaution against such a 
catastrophe. He began to make him eat of it in small doses, gradually 
increasing them, until he could take a large quantity, whereby he be- 
came so poisonous, that if a fly lighted on his hand, it swelled and died 
incontinently, and many of the women with whom he slept died from 
the same cause." (Rajmusio, vol. i. pp. 204-5.) Varthema seems to have 
believed further, that Mahinud's spittle, after masticating the Betel leaf, 
in conjunction with the fruit of the Areca palm and fine lime, was fatal 
to any upon whom his Majesty might choose to eject it. Beyond the 
fact that he was an enormous eater, I can find nothing to substantiate 
these fabulous statements, which remind us of Mithridates, and of the 
Arabian Nights. The author of the Miraiit Sikandari, quoted by 'Ali 
Muhammed Khan, says : " Sultan Mahmud was the best of all the Guze- 
rat kings, on account of his great justice and beneficence, his honouring 
and observing all the Muhammedan laws, and for the solidity of his 
judgment, whether in great or small matters. He attained a great 
age, and was distinguished for strength, bravery, and liberality." Bum's 
Translation, p. 203. 


is, to the men of the said city, the greater part of whom go 
about in a shirt, and are very warlike and great merchants. 
It is impossible to describe the excellence of the country. 
About three hundred ships of different countries come and 
go here. This city, and another of which I will speak at the 
proper season, supply all Persia, Tartary, Turkey, Syria, 
Barbary, that is Africa, Arabia Felix, Ethiopia, India, and a 
multitude of inhabited islands, with silk and cotton stuffs. 
So that this sultan lives with vast riches, and fights with a 
neighbouring king, who is called king of the Ioghe, distant 
from this city fifteen days' journey. 


This king of the Ioghe 1 is a man of great dignity, and has 
about thirty thousand people, and is a pagan, he and all his 
subjects ; and by the pagan kings he and his people are con- 
sidered to be saints, on account of their lives, which you 
shall hear. It is the custom of this king to go on a pilgrim- 
age once in every three or four years, like a pilgrim, that 
is, at the expense of others, with three or four thousand of 
his people, and with his wife and children. And he takes 

1 I am unable to identify this " king of the Ioghe" ( Joghees), with 
whom Sultan Mahmud is said to have been at war. No dependance can 
be placed on Varthema's names and distances when given on the report 
of others. In this instance he probably indicates the Rajah of Eedur 
in the Myhee Kanta, against whom Mahmud marched with a large 
force in 1494, and between the Koolee Rajahs of which place and the 
sovereigns of Guzerat there was a succession of fierce contests from a.d. 
1400 till the latter country became a province of Akbar's empire in 1583. 
(See Bird's Translation of the Mirdt Ahmadi, pp. 121, 137, 222, 266, 
325. Also Forbes's Ras Mala, vol. i. pp. 378, 381, 385, et seq.) 

Perhaps the place of pilgrimage referred to by Varthema was the 
famous Buddhist shrine (Boodkhana) at Perwuttum, which Nikitin 
describes as " the 'Jerusalem of the Hindoos, where people from all parts 
of India congregate." India in the Fifteenth Century, iii. p. 16. 


four or five coursers, and civet-cats, apes, parrots, leopards, 
and falcons ; and in this way he goes through the whole of 
India. His dress is a goat skin, that is, one before and one 
behind, with the hair outwards. His colour is dark tawny, 
for the people here begin to be more dark than white. They 
all wear a great quantity of jewels, and pearls, and other pre- 
cious stones, in their ears, and they go dressed a Vapostolica} 
and some wear shirts. The king and some of the more noble 
have the face and arms and the whole body powdered over 
with ground sandal-wood and other most excellent scents. 
Some of these people adopt as an act of devotion the custom 
of never sitting on any high seat ; others, as an act of devo- 
tion, never sit on the ground ; others adopt the custom of 
never lying at full length on the ground ; others, again, that 
of never speaking. These always go about with three or 
four companions, who wait upon them. All generally carry 
a little horn at their neck ; and when they go into a city 
they all in company sound the said little horns, and this they 
do when they wish alms to be given to them. When the 
king does not go, they go at least three or four hundred at a 
time, and remain in a city three days, in the manner of the 
Singani. 2 Some of them carry a stick with a ring of iron at 
the base. Others carry certain iron dishes which cut all 
round like razors, and they throw these with a sling when they 
wish to injure any person ; and, therefore, when these people 
arrive at any city in India, every one tries to please them ; 
for should they even kill the first nobleman of the land, they 
would not suffer any punishment because they say that they 
are saints. 3 The country of these people is not very fertile ; 

1 We have here the same expression as in page 78. On second 
thoughts, I am inclined to think that Varthema borrows his figure from 
the Roman toga, in which the old Italian artists generally represent the 
Apostles. Not an inapt comparison with the manner in which the com- 
mon people of India frequently wear the langhHti. 

~ Zingani, gipsies (?). 

8 By no means an exaggerated account of the austerities practised by 


they even suffer from dearth of provisions. There are more 
mountains than plains. Their habitations are very poor, and 
they have no walled places. 1 Many jewels come into our 
parts by the hands of these people, because through the 
liberty they enjoy, and their sanctity, they go where jewels 
are produced, and carry them into other countries without 
any expense. Thus, having a strong country, they keep the 
Sultan Machamuth at war. 


Departing from the said city of Combeia, I travelled on 
until I arrived at another city named Cevul, 2 which is distant 

some of the Joghee Fakirs, and of the estimation in which they were 
held by their co-religionists. On this occasion, Varthemais more modest 
in his description than either Bernier or Hamilton, who descend to the 
most disgusting particulars in the habits of these filthy ascetics. See 
Pinkerton's Voyages, vol. viii. pp. 180, 317-8. 

1 This description of the country inhabited by Varthema's " Ioghe" 
confirms me in the impression that the Myhee Canta is indicated. 

2 Chaul, Choul, or Chowul, a town and seaport of the Northern Concan, 
in the British district of Tanuah, twenty-three miles south of Bombay. 
It appears to have been a place of considerable trade in former times. 
Nikitin, the Russian traveller, who calls it Chivil, visited it about thirty- 
five years before Varthema, and describes the manners of the inhabitants 
much as he does : " People go about naked, with their heads uncovered, 
and bare breasts. ..Their fcniaz [prince] wears a, fata [a large silken gar- 
ment] on the head, and another on the loins; the boyars wear it on the 
shoulders and on the loins, [Varthema's alia apostolicha.] The servants 
of the hniaz and of the boyars attach the fata round the loins, carrying 
in the hand a shield and a sword, or a scimitar, or knives, or a sabre, or 
a bow and arrows; but all naked and barefooted." {India in the XVth. 
Century, iii. 8, 9.) Ralph Fitch, who was at Chaul in 1583, after its 
capture by the Portuguese, says : " Here is great traffic for all sorts of 
spices and drugs, silk and cloth of silk, sandals, and elephants' teeth." 
The trade had fallen off considerably in Hamilton's time, for he says : 
"the place is now miserably poor." Pinkerton's Voyages, ix. p. 408; 
viii. p. 351. 


from the above-mentioned city twelve days' journey, and 
the country between the one and the other of these cities is 
called Guzerati. The king of this Cevul is a pagan. The 
people are of a dark tawny colour. As to their dress, with 
the exception of some Moorish merchants, some wear a 
shirt, and some go naked, with a cloth round their middle, 
Avith nothing on their feet or head. The people are war- 
like : their arms are swords, bucklers, bows and spears made 
of reeds and wood, and they possess artillery. This city is 
extremely well walled, and is distant from the sea two miles. 
It possesses an extremely beautiful river, by which a very 
great number of foreign vessels go and return, because the 
country abounds in everything excepting grapes, nuts, and 
chestnuts. They collect here an immense quantity of grain, 
of barley, and of vegetables of every description ; and 
cotton stuffs are manufactured here in great abundance. I 
do not describe their faith here, because their creed is the 
same as that of the king of Calicut, of which I will give 
you an account when the proper time shall come. There 
are in this city a very great number of Moorish merchants. 
The atmosphere begins here to be more warm than cold. 
Justice is extremely well administered here. This king has 
not many fighting men. The inhabitants here have horses, 
oxen, and cows, in great abundance. 


Having seen Cevul and its customs, departing thence, I 
went to another city, distant from it two days' journey, 
which is called Dabuli, 1 which city is situated on the bank of 

1 Situated in the British district of Rutnagherry, in lat. 17° 34' N., 
long. 73° 16' E., on the northern bank of the river Washishtee, (called 
llalewacko and Kaleivacko by the earlier navigators), and about two miles 
from its mouth : apparently a place of little consequence now, as it is 


a very great river. This city is surrounded by walls in our 
manner, and is extremely good. The country resembles 
that above described. There are Moorish merchants here 
in very great numbers. The king of this place [Dabuli] is a 
pagan, and possesses about thirty thousand fighting men, 
but according to the manner of Cevul before mentioned. 
This king is also a very great observer of justice. The 
country, the mode of living, the dress, and the customs, re- 
semble those of the aforesaid city of Cevul. 


I departed from the city of Dabuli aforesaid, and went to 
another island, which is about a mile distant from the main- 
land, and is called Goga, 1 and which pays annually to the 
king of Decan ten thousand golden ducats, called by them 
pardai. These pardai are smaller than the seraphim of 
Cairo, but thicker, and have two devils stamped upon one 

not mentioned by Thornton, but formerly one of the principal seaports 
of Bijapur. There 'Adil Shah landed from the island of Hormuz in 1458, 
and thither an ambassador from Persia was escorted from the capital, 
on his return homeward, in 1519. (Scott's Ferishta, vol. i. pp. 209, 258.) 
Nikitin describes it as a very large town and an extensive seaport, " the 
meeting-place for all nations navigating the coasts of India and Ethi- 
opia." It was captured by the Portuguese under General Almeida in 
1508. When Mandeslo visited it in 1639, its fortifications had been 
mostly demolished (lib. ii. p. 243) ; and fifty years later its importance 
as a seaport appears to have been a thing of the past ; for Hamilton, 
after indicating its situation at the mouth of a large river, merely adds : 
" it was of old a place of trade, and where the English once had a fac- 
tory." Pinkerton's Voyages, vol. viii. p. 350. 

1 The island of Goa, (Ibn Batuta writes it " Kawah"), now belonging 
to the Portuguese, but at that time a dependency of the Muhammedan 
kingdom of the Deccan. The place was surprised and captured by the 
Portuguese under Albuquerque in 1510 ; but they were expelled shortly 
after by 'Adil Shah, the reigning sovereign. It was retaken by them, the 


side of them, and certain letters on the other. 1 In this island 
there is a fortress near the sea, walled round after our man- 
ner, in which there is sometimes a captain, who is called. 
Savain, who has four hundred Mamelukes, he himself being 
also a Mameluke. When the said captain can procure any- 
white man, he gives him very great pay, allotting him at 
least fifteen or twenty pardai per month. Before he in- 
scribes him in the list of able men, he sends for two tunics 
made of leather, one for himself and the other for him who 
wishes to enlist ; each puts on his tunic, and they fall to 
blows. If he finds him to be strong, he puts him in the list 
of able men ; if not, he sets him to some other work than 
that of fighting. This captain, with four hundred Mame- 
lukes, wages a great war with the king of Narsinga, 2 of 
whom we will speak at the proper season. I departed 
thence, and, travelling for seven days on the mainland, I 
arrived at a city which is called Decan. 

year following, from 'Adil Shah's successor, and has remained in their 
possession ever since. It does not appear to have been a great mart of 
trade prior to the Portuguese conquest, but its commerce increased con- 
siderably during the early period of their domination. Ralph Fitch, 
who visited Goain 1583, says: "there are many merchants of all nations." 
It has now fallen into a hopeless state of decay. 

1 Pardao or pertab. The same coin appears to have been called also 
a hun. According to Prinsep, it generally bore the figures of Siva and 
Parbati on one side, and a pyramidal temple on the others : hence its 
name of pagoda among Europeans ; but among Marsden's Coins of 
Southern India, there is one on plate xlviii. No. mlxxii., which in size 
and superscription agrees with that mentioned by Varthema, having on 
the one side the double figure of Siva and Parbati, and on the obverse a 
legend shewing it to have been struck by a female sovereign whose title 
was "Sri Sada-Siva." See Marsden's Numismata Orientalia, vol. ii. 
p. 738. 

2 The Rajah of Bijayanagar, then the metropolis of the famous Brah- 
minical kingdom of the Carnatic, between which and the 'Adil Shahi 
realm of the Deccan there was constant war at this period. See Scott's 
Ft riskta, vol. i. pp. 207-225 et sea. 





In the said city of Decan there reigns a king who is a 
Mohammedan. The above-mentioned captain is in his pay, 
together with the said Mamelukes. This city is extremely 
beautiful, and very fertile. The king of it, between the 
Mamelukes and others of his kingdom, has twenty-five thou- 
sand men horse and foot. There is a beautiful palace in this 
city, in which there are forty-four chambers before you 
arrive at that of the king. This city is walled after the 
manner of the Christians, and the houses are very beautiful. 1 

1 This was unquestionably Bijapur, now a ruined town in the Sattara 
district, near the eastern frontier, towards Hydrabad, but formerly the 
metropolis of the Muhammedan kingdom of the Deccan. Fitch, describ- 
ing Goa in 1583, says : "It standeth in the country of Hidalcan [Ed- 
Deccan], which lieth in the country six or seven days' journey. Its chief 
city is called Bisapor" [Bijapur]. The reigning prince in Varthema's 
time was Yusuf Khan, the reputed son of Murad II. of Anatolia, who had 
been purchased as a slave for the body-guard of the King of Bidar 
(Ahmedabad), but who subsequently raised himself to the highest offices 
of the state, and finally assumed independent sovereignty as 'Adil Shah 
in 1501. His resources must have been great, for he built the vast 
citadel of Bijapur, which he made his capital. Our traveller's account 
of the magnificence and prosperity of the city, and of the gorgeous 
retinue of the king, as well as his military prowess, is attested by the 
noble remains which mark the site of the once famous Bijapur, and by 
the full account given by Ferishta of the reign of 'Adil Shah. A traveller 
who visited the place in 1852, thus describes the ruins of the Padishah's 
palace : " It was magnificence, indeed ; far surpassing, I could almost 
say, that of any ancient or modern European palace I ever beheld, — I 
mean as regards space and style of architecture. The bastioned walls 
which enclose the palace and its precincts are about a mile and a half 
in circumference, enclosing a space of about sixty-two acres. The broad 
moat without is shaded by large tamarind trees, and the courts within 

the citadel are also full of trees As for Raglan Castle, it could be 

put away in one corner of the Beejapore palace, and Kenilworth in 
another." He estimates the present population at about eleven thousand 
souls. See Bombay Quarterly Magazine, July 1853; also Sydenham's 
Account of Btjap4r. 


The king of the said city lives in great pride and pomp. A 
great number of his servants wear on the insteps of their 
shoes rubies and diamonds, and other jewels ; so you may 
imagine how many are worn on the fingers of the hand and in 
the ears. There is a mountain in his kingdom where they dig 
out diamonds, which mountain is a league distant from the 
city, and is surrounded by a wall, and is kept by a great 
guard. 1 This realm is most abundant in everything, like the 
above-mentione'd cities. They are all Mohammedans. Their 
dress consists of robes, or very beautiful shirts of silk, and 
they wear on their feet shoes or boots, with breeches after 
the fashion of sailors. The ladies go with their faces quite 
covered, according to the custom of Damascus. 


The above-mentioned king of Decan is always at war 
with the king of Narsinga, and all his country is Moham- 
medan. The greater part of his soldiers are foreigners and 
white men. 2 The natives of the kingdom are of a tawny 
colour. This king is extremely powerful, and very rich, 
and most liberal. He also possesses many naval vessels, 
and is a very great enemy of the Christians. 3 Departing 
thence, we went to another city, called Bathacala. 

1 Probably the locality mentioned by Tavernier, who says : " The first 
of the mines I visited is situated in the territories of the King of Visa- 
pour (BijapUr), in the province of Carnatica. The place is called Raol- 
conda. It is five days' journey from Golconda, and eight or nine from 
Visapour." Pinkerton's Voyages, vol. viii. p. 235. 

2 According to Ferishta, 'Adil Shah entertained a large number of 
foreign auxiliaries in his service, among whom were many Abyssinians. 
He also mentions that his successor, Isma'il 'Adil Shah, " formed an 
army of 10,000 cavalry, consisting of Arabians, Persians, Turks, Usbecks, 
Koords, and other foreigners." Scott's Translation, vol. i. p. 245. 

3 'Adil Shah expelled the Portuguese from Goa on their first capture 





Bathacala, 1 a very noble city of India, is distant from 
Decan five days' journey. The king thereof is a pagan. 
This city is walled, and very beautiful, and about a mile 
distant from the sea. The king is subject to the king of 
Narsinga. This city has no seaport, the only approach to it 
being by a small river. There are many Moorish merchants 

of that place in 1510. He appears to have been an enthusiast in matters 
of faith chiefly on political grounds. After solemnly establishing the 
Shiah creed as the national religion, he subsecpuently retracted his 
opinions and restored the Sunni rites, in order to allay the serious oppo- 
sition which his apostasy had excited among the zealous adherents of 
'Omar, Abubekr, and 'Othman. 

1 I find no difficulty in identifying this place with the more modern 
Sedasevaghur, which Thornton describes as " a town in the British dis- 
trict of North Canara, on the north side of the Kala Nuddi, and a mile 
east of its mouth." It is just within the Karwar Head, where, in 
Hamilton's time, there was a British factory, and an adjacent cove was 
used by our vessels as a harbour of refuge and to careen. Karwar, he 
says, " has the advantage of a good harbour on the south side of a bay, 
and a river capable of receiving ships of three hundred tuns. The Rajah 
is tributary to the Mogul at present, but formerly it was a part of 
Visapore's dominions before Aurungzeb conquered that country." He 
styles the town Batcoal and adds : " the Portuguese have an island 
called Anjediva, about two miles from Batcoal." (Pinkerton's Voyages, 
vol. viii. pp. 361-2.) These indications are sufficiently explicit to pre- 
vent our confounding Varthema's " Bathacala" with Batcull, (Bucha- 
nan's "Batuculla" and Hamilton's " Batacola,") where the British had 
also a factory. The latter is in lat. 13° 59', or fifteen miles south of 
llonahwar, while Varthema, who is travelling southward, reaches Batha- 
cala three days before arriving at Honahwar. 

As an attempt is being made to restore and improve the old harbour, 
it is to be hoped that the more ancient, simple, and euphonious title of 
Bathcal or Bathcole will be given to the new settlement. That of 
" Sedashevagur," or " Sudaseoghur," as it is more generally written, 
appears to have originated with Sedashwa Rao, one of the Rajahs of 
Soonda, who built a fort at Bathcal, and grew into importance on the 
overthrow of the great kingdom of Bijayanagar in 1565. 


here, for it is a district of great traffic. The above-named 
stream passes close to the walls of the city, in which there is 
a great quantity of rice, and a great abundance of sugar, 
and especially of sugar candied, according to our manner. 
We begin here to find nuts and figs, after the manner of 
Calicut. These people are idolaters, also after the man- 
ner of Calicut, excepting the Moors, who live according 
to the Mohammedan religion. Neither horses, nor mules, 
nor asses, are customary here, but there are cows, buffaloes, 
sheep, oxen, and goats. In this country no grain, barley, or 
vegetables are produced, but other most excellent fruits, usual 
in India. I quitted this place, and went to another island, 
which is called Anzediva, 1 and which is inhabited by a certain 
sort of people who are Moors and pagans. This island is 
distant from the mainland half a mile, and is about twenty 
miles in circumference. The air is not very good here, 
neither is the place very fertile. There is an excellent port 
between the island and the mainland, and very good water 
is found in the said island. 


Travelling for one day from the aforesaid island, I arrived 
at a place called Centacola, 2 the lord of which is not very 

1 An island two miles distant from the coast of North Canara. " It is 
about a mile in length, and possessed by the Portuguese. It appears on 
the outside rocky, but of a pleasant aspect on the opposite side next the 
main, where it is fortified by a wall and some towers." (Horsburgh's 
Directory, vol. i. p. 507.) The island was captured by the Portuguese in 
1505. Varthema greatly exaggerates its dimensions. 

2 Centacola I take to be Uncola, (the " Ankla" of Hamilton and 
" Ancola" of Buchanan,) " the principal place in the subdivision of the 
same name, in the British district of North Canara, a town two miles 
from the Arabian Sea or North Indian Ocean." (Thornton's Gazetteer.) 
Varthema was one day reaching Centacola from Angediva, and Uncola 


rich. A great quantity of cow beef is met with here, and 
much rice, and good fruits customary in India. In this city 
there are many Moorish merchants. The lord of it is a 
pagan. The people are of a tawny colour: they go naked 
and bare-footed, and wear nothing on the head. This lord 
is subject to the king of Bethacala. Travelling thence for 
two days, we went to another place called Onor, 1 the king of 

being in lat. 14° 40', is five geographical miles south of that island. 
Buchanan makes the distance eight cosses from Ancola to Sedasiva- 
ghur, and describes the former town as having a ruined fort and a 
bazaar, but few inhabitants, " as in this part of the country the popu- 
lation does not settle in numbers in any spot, but is dispersed in hamlets 
and farms. Midway between Gaukarna and Ancola, which are three 
cosses apart, is the Gangawali, an inlet of salt water... Its mouth toward 
the sea is narrow, but inwards it forms a lake, which is from one mile to 
half that extent in width. ..Boats of a considerable size (patemars) can 
come over the bar, and ascend the river for three cosses. ..The river has 
no trade, and the country on its banks, though very beautiful, seems 
rather barren." Pinkerton, vol. viii. 362, 756-7. 

1 Iionahwar, (the"Hinaur" of Ibn Batuta, "Honawera" of Buchanan, 
" Ilonaver" of Wilks, and the " Onore" of the generality of British 
writers,) is a seaport town in the British district of North Canara. " It 
is situated on the north side of an extensive estuary, or rather inlet, of 
the sea, which at its south-eastern extremity receives the Sheravutty, a 
considerable river flowing from the western ghats. ..The lake abounds in 
fish, great cpuantities of which are taken and made an article of com- 
merce. This port was formerly a place of great commerce, and still has 
a trade in pepper, cocoa-nuts, betel-nut, fish ; and some other articles, 
especially the fragrant sandal-wood, which grows in great abundance on 
the rocky hills of the country." Thornton's Gazetteer. 

Ibn Batuta, who visited Honahwar towards the middle of the four- 
teenth century, describes its local features in similar terms. " The women 
of this city," he adds, " and of all the Indian districts on the sea-shores, 
never dress in clothes that have been stitched, but the contrary. One 
of them, for example, will tie one part of a piece of cloth round her 
waist, while the remaining part will be placed upon her head and breast. 
...The present king is Jamal ed-Din Muhammed ibn Hasan. He is one 
of the best of princes, but is himself subject to an infidel king whose 
name is Horaib." (Lee's Translation, pp. 165-6.) The Portuguese 
built a strong fort here in the sixteenth century, from which they were 
subsequently expelled by the Rajah of Canara. Hamilton describes a 
pagan temple at Honahwar, which was visited yearly by a great number 


which is a pagan, and is subject to the king of Navsinga. 
This king is a good fellow, and has seven or eight ships, 
which are always cruising about. He is a great friend of 
the king of Portugal. As to his dress, he goes quite naked, 
with the exception of a cloth about his middle. There is a 
great deal of rice here, as is usual in India, and some kinds 
of animals are found here, viz., wild hogs, stags, wolves, 
lions, and a great number of birds, different from ours ; there 
are also many peacocks and parrots there. They have beef 
of cows, that is, red cows, and sheep in great abundance. 
Roses, flowers, and fruits, are found here all through the 
year. The air of this place is most perfect, and the people 
here are longer lived than we are. Near the said district of 
Onor there is another place, called Mangolor, 1 in which fifty 
or sixty ships are laden with rice. The inhabitants are 
pagans and Moors. Their mode of living, their customs, 
and their dress, are like those above described. We de- 
parted thence, and went to another city, which is called 

of pilgrims. In Ibn Batuta's time the greater part of the inhabitants 
were Muhammedans, and had committed the Koran to memory ! 

1 A town in the British district of South Canara, situate on the north 
side of the estuary formed by the junction of a river flowing from the 
north-east, and of the Naitravutty, a considerable river, but navigable 
only by small vessels... The town is large,, and is washed on east and 
west by the two streams whose confluence forms the estuary. The houses 
are generally mean, and there are no public buildings worth notice. 
Mangalore, though a bad haven, was the principal seaport of the territory 
of Hyder Ali. (See Thornton's Gazetteer.) It appears to have been so 
long before his time, for Ibn Batuta, who calls it Manjerun, says : " in 
this place are some of the greatest merchants of Persia and Yemen... 
The king of this place is the greatest of the kings of Malabar, and in it 
are about four thousand Muhammedan merchants." (Lee's Transla- 
tion, p. 169.) Hamilton also describes it as " the greatest mart for trade 
iu all the Canary dominions." 



Canonor 1 is a fine and large city, in which the king of 
Portugal has a very strong castle. The king of this city is 
a great friend of the king of Portugal,- although he is a 

1 A seaport town in the British district of Malabar, situate on the 
north shore of a small bay, open to the south, but sheltered towards the 
Arabian Sea by a bluff headland, surrounded by a fort... It is a populous 
place, but very irregularly built ; yet has many good houses, chiefly 
belonging to the Moplai or Mussulman family, proprietors of the town. 
...It is a port of considerable trade, principally in pepper, grain, timber 
and cocoa-nuts." (Thornton's Gazetteer.) Hamilton mentions the fort 
built by the Portuguese in 1507, who, however, did not seize the town till 
some time after. They were expelled by the Dutch about the year 1660, 
and they in turn sold it to the Moplai family. It subsequently fell into 
the hands of Tippoo Sultan, from whom it was finally captured by the 
British under Abercrombie in 1791. 

The mention of the Moplahs in the foregoing paragraph induces me 
to suggest a different derivation of the word to that generally received. 
Duncan supposes it to be contracted from Mahapilla, or " child of 
Mocha," in Arabia, from which country they originally came, as, in the 
language of Malabar, Maha means Mocha, and pitta, child. (Thorn- 
ton's Gazetteer, sub voce Malabar.) I am inclined to think that the 
name is either a corruption of the Arabic Muflih, (from the root fdlaha, 
to till the soil,) meaning prosperous or victorious, — in which sense it 
would apply to the successful establishments of these foreign Mussul- 
mans on the western coast of India ; or, that it is a similar corruption of 
Mdfiih, (the active participial form of the same verb,) an agriculturist, 
— a still more appropriate designation of the Moplahs, who, according 
to Buchanan, are both traders and farmers. In the latter sense, the 
term, though not usually so applied among the Arabs, would be iden- 
tical with Fellah, which is also a derivative from the triliteral root fdlaha. 

a The sequel will show that Varthema is here anticipating, in part, 
what did not actually take place till two or three years after his first visit, 
which must have occurred between 1504-5. The Portuguese under 
Pedro Alvarez Cabral made their first appearance at Cannanore on the 
15th of January 1501. The second expedition, which was commanded 
by Juan de Nueva, followed in November of the same year, and on both 
occasions the foreigners were received and treated with the greatest con- 
sideration by the inhabitants, the Rajah himself offering to become their 
security for a large amount of produce rather than that their ships 


pagan. This Canonor is the port at which the horses which 
come from Persia disembark. And you must know that 
every horse pays twenty-five ducats for customs duty, and 
then they proceed on the mainland towards Narsinga. There 
arc many Moorish merchants in this city. No grain nor 
grapes grow here, nor any productions like ours, excepting 
cucumbers and melons. Bread is not eaten here, that, is to 
say, by the natives of the country, but they eat rice, fish, 
flesh, and the nuts of the country. At the proper time we 
will speak of their religion and customs, for they live after 
the manner of those of Calicut. Here we begin to find a 
few spices, such as pepper, ginger, cardamums, mirabolans, 
and a little cassia. This place is not surrounded by a wall. 
The houses are very poor. Here also are found fruits dif- 
ferent from ours, and which are also far superior to ours. I 
will make the comparison when the proper time comes. 
The country is well adapted for war, as it is full of hollow 
places artificially made. The king of this place has 50,000 
Naeri, 1 that is, gentlemen who fight with swords, shields, 
lances and bows, and with artillery. And yet they go 
naked and unshod, with a cloth around them, without any- 
thing on their heads, excepting when they go to war, when 
they wear a turban of a red colour passed twice round the 
head, and they all have them tied in the same manner. 
They do not use here either horses, mules, camels, or asses. 
Elephants are sometimes used, but not for battle. At the 
proper time we will speak of the vigour exerted by the king 

should return to Europe empty. In 1502 Vasco de Gama established a 
factory there, and the year following the Rajah gave him a house for the 
purpose, and entered into an offensive and defensive alliance with the 
Portuguese ; but the fort does not appear to have existed till 1507, when 
Don Francisco de Almeyda, the first Viceroy, obtained permission to 
build it in the harbour, where he left Lorenzo de Britto with 150 men, 
and two vessels to cruise on the coast. See Greene's Collection of Voy- 
ages, vol. i. pp. 48-61 1. 

1 Buchanan says : " the Nairs are the pure Sudras of Malayala, and 
all pretend to be born soldiers... They form the militia of Malayala, and 
their chief delight is in arms." Pinkerton's Voyages, viii. 735-6. 


of Canonor against the Portuguese. There is much traffic 
in this place, to which two hundred ships come every year 
from different countries. Having spent some days here we 
took our way towards the kingdom of Narsinga, and tra- 
velled on the mainland for fifteen 1 days towards the east, and 
came to a city called Bisinegar. 


The said city of Bisinegar 2 belongs to the king of Nar- 
singa, and is very large and strongly walled. It is situated 

1 Abel er-Razzak was eighteen days travelling between Bijayanagar 
and Maganor (Mangalore). 

- Narsinga or Bijayanagar, (I believe that to be the correct ortho- 
graphy of the latter name, but it is spelt in a great variety of ways by 
modern as well as by earlier writers,) now a ruined city, was formerly 
the capital of the ancient Brahminical kingdom of the Carnatic, which 
before the conquests of the Muhammedans extended over the greater 
part of the peninsula between the Malabar and Coromandel coasts. It 
is situated on the western bank of the river Toongabudra, in lat. 15° 19', 
long. 76° 32'. It was visited by Abd er-Razzak and by Nicolo de' Conti 
a.d. 1442-1445, and described about twenty-five years later by Nikitin, 
and their several narratives, contained in the volume entitled India in 
the Fifteenth Century of the Hakluyt Society's Publications, concur in 
corroborating Varthema's brief sketch of the vastness and magnificence 
of this once famdus metropolis, and the splendour of its court. The 
number of elephants, their strength and sagacity, and the large army of 
the Rajah, which Conti estimated at 90,000 men in the city alone, at- 
tracted the special attention of these early travellers. At the period of 
Varthema's visit, the administration of affairs was in the hands of 
Heemraj, one of the principal ministers of state, who on the death of 
See Rajah became regent on behalf of his son, a minor, who died shortly 
after, and Heemraj so disposed of his successors that he retained almost 
absolute sway for forty years, and was succeeded in office by his son 
Ramraj, during whose reign the power of the Bijayanagar state was 
broken by a confederacy of the M ussulman kings of the Deccan at the 
battle of Talikote in 1565. "Since that time," writes Ferishta, " the 
raj of Beejnugger has never recovered its ancient splendour ; and the 


on the side of a mountain, and is seven miles in circum- 
ference. It has a triple circle of walls. It is a place of 
great merchandise, is extremely fertile, and is endowed with 
all possible kinds of delicacies. It occupies the most beau- 
tiful site, and possesses the best air that were ever seen : 
with certain very beautiful places for hunting and the same 
for fowling, so that it appears to me to be a second paradise. 
The king of this city is a pagan, with all his kingdom, that 
is to say, idolaters. He is a very powerful king, and keeps 
up constantly 40,000 horsemen. And you must know that 
a horse is worth at least 300, 400, and 500 pardai, and some 
are purchased for 800 pardai, because horses are not pro- 
duced there, neither are many mares found there, because 
those kings who hold the seaports do not allow them to be 
brought there. The said king also possesses 400 elephants 
and some dromedaries, which dromedaries run with great 
swiftness. It occurs to me here to touch upon a subject 
worthy of notice, viz., the discretion, the intelligence, and 
the strength of the elephant. We will first say in what 
manner he fights. When an elephant goes into battle he 
carries a saddle, in the same manner as they are borne by 
the mules of the kingdom of Naples, fastened underneath 
by two iron chains. On each side of the said saddle he 
carries a large and very strong wooden box, and in each box 
there go three men. On the neck of the elephant, between 
the boxes, they place a plank the size of half a span, and 
between the boxes and the plank a man sits astride who 

city itself has been so destroyed, that it is now totally in ruins and unin- 
habited ; while the country has been seized by the zemindars, each of 
whom hath assumed an independent power in his own district." After 
this disaster, the court was removed to Pennaconda, about ninety miles 
to the southward of Bellary, where the ruins of this once powerful 
dynasty continued to cast a lingering look at its former greatness till 
the country was subjected by Aurungzib in 1685. Bijayanagar, how- 
ever, was still a large city when visited by Caesar Fredericke in 1567. 
See Scott's Ferishta, vol. i. pp. 262, 295-298. Wilks's Historical 
Sketches of the South of India, Calcutta, pp. 4-15. 


speaks to the elephant, for the said elephant possesses more 
intelligence than any other animal in the world ; so that 
there are in all seven persons who go upon the said ele- 
phant ; and they go armed with shirts of mail, and with 
bows and lances, swords and shields. And in like manner 
they arm the elephant with mail, especially the head and 
the trunk. They fasten to the trunk a sword two 
br accia long, as thick and as wide as the hand of a man. 
And in that way they fight. 1 And he who sits upon his neck 
orders him : " Go forward," or " Turn back," " Strike this 
one," " Strike that one," " Do not strike any more," and he 
understands as though he were a human being. But if at 
any time they are put to flight it is impossible to restrain 
them ; for this race of people are great masters of the art of 
making fireworks, and these animals have a great dread of 
fire, and through this means they sometimes take to flight. 
But in every way this animal is the most discreet in the 
world and the most powerful. I have seen three elephants 
bring a ship from the sea to the land, in the manner as I will 
tell you, When I was in Canonor, some Moorish merchants 
brought a ship on shore in this manner, after the custom of 
Christians. They beach ships the prow foremost, but here 
they put the side of the vessel foremost, and under the said 
ship they put three pieces of wood, and on the side next the 
sea I saw three elephants kneel down and with their heads 
push the ship on to dry land. 2 Many say that the elephant 
has no joints, and I say that it is true that they have not the 
joints so high as other animals, but they have them low. I 

1 Nikitin's description is very similar. He says : " Elephants are 
greatly used in battle. Large scythes are attached to their trunks and 
tusks, and the animals are clad in ornamental plates of steel. They 
carry a citadel, and in the citadel twelve men in armour with guns and 
arrows." India in the Fifteenth Century, iii. p. 12. 

2 Turpin mentions that the Siamese make use of the elephant " to 
shove vessels into the water, which he does with his back." Pinker- 
ton's Voyages, vol. i. p. 615. 


tell you, moreover, that the female elephant is stronger and 
more proud than the male, and some of the females are mad. 
The said elephants arc as large as three buffaloes, and they 
have a skin like that of the buffalo, and eyes like those of a 
pig, and a trunk reaching to the ground, and with this they 
put their food into their mouth as also their drink ; for their 
mouth is situated beneath their throat, and almost like a pig 
or a sturgeon. This trunk is hollow within, and I have 
many times seen them fish up a quattrino from the ground 
with it. And with this trunk I have seen them pull down 
a branch from a tree which twenty-four of our men could 
not pull to the ground with a rope, and the elephant tore it 
down with three pulls. The two teeth which are seen are 
in the upper jaw. The ears are two palmi every way, some 
more, some less. Their legs are almost as large at the lower 
extremity as at the upper. Their feet are round like a very 
large trencher for cutting meat on, and around the foot there 
are five nails as large as the shell of an oyster. The tail is 
as long as that of a buffalo, about three palmi long, and has 
a few scattered hairs. The female is smaller than the male. 
With respect to the height of the said elephant, I have seen 
a great many thirteen and fourteen palmi high, and I have 
ridden on some of that height ; they say, moreover, that 
some are found fifteen palmi high. Their walk is very slow, 
and those who are not accustomed to it cannot ride them, 
because it upsets their stomach, just as it does in travelling 
by sea. The small elephants have a pace like that of a mule, 
and it is a pleasure to ride them. When the said elephants 
are to be ridden, the said elephant lowers one of the hind 
legs, and by that leg it is mounted ; nevertheless, you must 
help yourself or be helped to mount. You must also know 
that the said elephants do not carry a bridle or halter, or 
anything bound on the head. 



The said elephant, when he wishes to generate, goes into 
a secret place, that is, into the water in certain marshes, 1 and 
they unite and generate like human beings. In some coun- 
tries, I have seen that the finest present which can be made 
to a king is the parts of an elephant, which said king eats 
the said parts ; for in some countries an elephant is worth 
fifty ducats, in some other countries it is worth one thousand 
and two thousand ducats. So that, in conclusion, I say 
that I have seen some elephants which have more under- 
standing, and more discretion and intelligence, than any 
kind of people I have met with. This king of Narsinga is 
the richest king I have ever heard spoken of. This city is 
situated like Milan, but not in a plain. The residence of 
the king is here, and his realms are placed as it might be 
the realm of Naples and also Venice ; so that he has the sea 
on both sides. His Brahmins, that is, his priests, say that 
he possesses a revenue of 12,000 pardai per day. He is 
constantly at war with several Moorish and pagan kings. 
His faith is idolatrous, and they worship the devil, as do 
those of Calicut. When the proper time comes we will 
state in what manner they worship him. They live like 
pagans. Their dress is this : the men of condition wear a 
short shirt, and on their head a cloth of gold and silk in the 
Moorish fashion, but nothing on the feet. The common 
people go quite naked, with the exception of a piece of 
cloth about their middle. The king wears a cap of gold 
brocade two spans long, and when he goes to war he wears 
a quilted dress of cotton, and over it he puts another gar- 
ment full of golden piastres, and having all around it jewels 
of various kinds. His horse is worth more than some of our 
cities, on account of the ornaments which it wears. When 
he rides for his pleasure he is always accompanied by three 
1 This peculiarity is also noticed by Turpin. Id. p. 614. 




or four kings, and many other lords, and five or six thou- 
sand horse. Wherefore he may be considered to be a very 
powerful lord. His money consists of a pardao, as I have 
said. He also coins a silver money called tare, and others 
of gold, twenty of which go to a pardao, and are called 
fanom. And of these small ones of silver, there go sixteen 
to a fanom. They also have another coin called cas, sixteen 
of which go to a tare of silver. 1 In this kingdom you can go 

1 The subjoined is a comparison of the Hindu coins current at l>i,ja- 
yanagar, and their relative value, as given by 'Abd er-Razzak and Var- 

'Abd er-Razzak, a. p. 1443. 
Gold Coins (with alloy). 
Varaha =: 2 Dinars, Kopcki. 
\ a Varaha. 
l-10th of a Perfcab. 
Pure Silver. 
-^th of a Fanom. 
Djitel = ^rd of a Tar. 

Per tab = 
Fanam = 

Tar == 

Varthema, a.d. 1504-5. 
Gold Coins. 


Fanom = l-20th of a Pardao. 

Tare = l-15th of a Fanom. 

Cas = 1-1 6th of a silver Tare, 
(equal to a Venetian quattrino.) 

The Varaha and the Half Varaha, called Pertab or Pardao, was the 
Hun of subsequent Mussulman writers and the Pagoda of Europeans, 
the latter a Portuguese appellation derived from the pyramidal temple 
generally depicted on one side of it. In 'Abd er-Razzak's Varaha and 
Pertab we have, consequently, the Single and Double Pagoda of after 
times. Varthema omits all mention of the Varaha, but as he gives 
twenty Fanams to the Pardao, while 'Abd er-Razzak allows only ten, 
his Pardao was probably identical with the Varaha or Double Pagoda. 
Hence, it appears that the gold coinage of the Bijayanagar state had 
undergone no material change in the half century intervening between 
the visits of the two travellers. 

The silver coinage must have fluctuated considerably, for whereas 
'Abd er-Razzak gives only six Tars to a Fanam, Varthema allows fif- 
teen. Probably, the Tar of the latter was of a baser metal ; that of the 
former is described particularly as being " cast in pure silver." 

There is a still greater difference in the copper money of the two tra- 
vellers, quite sufficient, indeed, to lead to the inference that the Djitel 
and the Cas were different coins ; but as I am quite unlearned in Numis- 
matics, I must leave these discrepancies to be solved by others. Prinsep 


everywhere in safety. But it is necessary to be on your 
guard against some lions which are on the road. I will not 
speak of their food at the present time, because I wish to 
describe it when we shall be in Calicut, where there are the 
same customs and the same manner of living. This king is 
a very great friend of the Christians, especially of the king 
of Portugal, because he does not know much of any other 
Christians. When the Portuguese arrive in his territories 
they do them great honour. When we had seen this so 
noble city for some days we turned towards Canonor And 
when we had arrived there, at the end of three days we 
took our way by land and went to a city called Torma- 





Tormapatani 1 is distant from Canonor twelve miles, and 
the lord of it is a Pagan. The land is not very rich, and is 

affords but scanty assistance relative to the old Hindu coinage of the 

It deserves to be noticed that neither 'Abd er-Razzak nor Varthema 
mentions the Cowrie as forming part of the currency. Ibn Batiita speci- 
fies it under the Arabic name of Wada\ remarks that it was collected in 
the Maldive Islands where it passed for money, and was sent in large 
quantities to Bengal, where it was also current instead of coin. Lee's 
Translation, p. 178. 

Nicold de' Conti's account of the Indian currency in his time is very 
loose and unsatisfactory. He says: "In some parts of anterior India, 
Venetian ducats are in circulation. Some have golden coins, weighing 
more than double of our florin, and also less, and, moreover, silver and 
brass money. In some places pieces of gold worked to a certain weight 
are used as money." India in the Fifteenth Century, ii. p. 30. 

1 This is, undoubtedly, the Dormapatam of Hamilton, a harbour near 
the Tellicherry river, a little to the northward of that town, which latter 
I presume to be the place which Varthema indicates. Barbosa calls it 



one mile from the sea, and it has a river not very large. 
There are many vessels of Moorish merchants here. The 
people of this country live miserably, and the greatest riches 
here consist of Indian nuts, and these they eat there with a 
little rice. They have plenty of timber here for building 
ships. In this land there are about fifteen thousand Moors, 
and they arc subject to the Sultan or pagan lord. I do not 
speak of their manner of living at present, because it will 
be described in Calicut, inasmuch as they are all of one and 
the same faith. The houses in this city are not too good, 
for a house is worth half a ducat, as I will explain to you 
further on. Here we remained two days, and then departed 
and went to a place which is called Pandarani, 1 distant from 

" Terinapatani," and describes it as situated on a river with two outlets 
to the sea, inhabited chiefly by Map\deres (Moplahs,) who are great 
merchants, and as the limit of the kingdom of Cannanore in the direc- 
tion of Calicut. (Ramusio, vol. i. p. 335.) " The neighbouring couutry 
is highly productive, the low lands producing annually two, and in some 
places three, crops of rice in the year. The cocoa-nut tree also grows 
in great abundance and perfection.... The population is estimated at 
twenty thousand, the majority of whom are Mussulman Moplahs." 
(Thornton's Gazetteer.) I am inclined to identify either Ibn Batiita's 
" Jarafattan" or " Badafattan," both of which occur between his "ITili" 
and " Kalikut," with this Dormepatam, or, as Baldasus writes it, " Terma- 
patan." Hili I take to be the Ulala of Buchanan, "a large town on the 
south side of the lake of Mangalore, and formerly the residence of a 
petty prince." Pinkehton's Voyages, vol. viii. p. 747. 

1 This name and that of Capogatto, the town next mentioned, have dis- 
appeared from the modern maps ; but if not identical with Waddakarre and 
Tikodi, they must be sought for in the vicinity of those places, which I 
find spelt in a variety of ways by old travellers. Hamilton has " Bur- 
gara" and " Cottica," and off Cottica he says is " the Sacrifice Rock, 
about eight miles in the sea," which is, doubtless, Varthema's "insula 
deshabitata." D'Anville has " Bergare" and " Cotta": Buchanan writes 
the former " Barrygurry" or " Vadacurry," and Arrowsmith makes 
" Kotacull" of the latter ; but the diversity is as endless as it is per- 
plexing. Both places, however, are distinctly mentioned by Baldajus in 
his account of the early proceedings of the Portuguese on the Malabar 
coast : — " Between Cananor and Calecut lies the town of Panane seated 
upon the seashore. ...In this place the Sammoryn kept his residence 


this one day's journey, and which is subject to the king of 
Calicut. This place is a wretched affair, and has no port. 
Opposite to the said city, in the sea three leagues or there- 
about, there is an uninhabited island. The manner of living 
of this Pandarini, and their customs, are the same as those 
of Calicut. This city is not level, and the land is high. We 
departed hence and went to another place called Capogatto, 
which is also subject to the king of Calicut. This place has 

when Vasco de Gama came into those parts... The Sammoryn sent cer- 
tain pilots to conduct the Portuguese fleet into the harbour of Capogaie, 
where there was much better and safer anchorage." (Churchill's Collec- 
tion of Voyages, vol. iii. p. 625.) Another version of that visit, which 
occurred in 1498, describes De Gama's landing at Padarane and his 
progress towards Kapokats, where his attendants rested to refresh 
themselves. (Greene's Collection, vol. i. pp. 30, 31.) This place, Pan- 
darani or Panane, must not be confounded with Yarthema's Pannani 
to the south of Calicut, which Thornton writes " Ponany." 

Barbosa also mentions a Panderani between Cannanore and Calicut, 
and describes it as inhabited by Moors, and as a great haven for ships ; 
but he places it to the south of Capogatto, whereas Varthema's Panda- 
rani occurs to the north of his Capogatto. I am of opinion that the 
seeming discrepancy arises from a similarity in the names of two different 
places. Barbosa's Capogatto he describes as situated about twelve miles 
up the river of Tarmapaiam, whereas Varthema's Capogatto was evi- 
dently a seaport town, only four leagues distant from Calicut. Hence, 
I find no difficulty in identifying it with Barbosa's Capucar, which he 
locates six miles to the north of Calicut. He says : " Beyond this 
[Panderani] there is another place with a river, called Capucar, where 
there are many Moors, natives of the country, and many ships, and 
they carry on a large trade with the merchandize of the country, which 
is brought hither to be shipped. ..Six miles beyond this place is Calicut." 
{Ramusio, vol. i. p. 311.) There are several lacunas in Barbosa's narra- 
tive of this part of the coast as given by Ramusio, owing apparently to 
a defect in the original MS. The following is his list of places as they 
occur consecutively between Cannanore and Calicut : Cananor ; Crecate ; 
...Tarmapatam ; Capogatto ;...Padripatam, the frontier of the kingdom 
of Calicut; Tircori ; Panderani ; Capucar; Calicut. 

Though his description of the locality is widely different, I am never- 
theless disposed to identify Yarthema's Pandarani with Ibn Batuta's 
" Fandaraina," where he landed before reaching Calicut from the north- 
w r ard. See Lee's Translation, p. 171. 



a very beautiful palace, built in the ancient style, and there 
is a small river towards the south, and it is four leagues dis- 
tant from Calicut. There is nothing to be said here, because 
they follow the manner and style of Calicut. We departed 
hence and went to the very noble city of Calicut. I have 
not written about the manner of living, the customs and 
faith, the administration of justice, dress, and country of 
Chiavul and of Dabul, of Bathacala, nor of the king of Onor, 
nor of Mangalor, nor of Canonor, nor, indeed, of the king 
of Cucin, nor of the king of Caicolone, nor of that of Colon, 
neither have I spoken of the king of Narsinga. Now I will 
speak of the king here in Calicut, because he is the most 
important king of all those before mentioned, and is called 
Samory, 1 which in the pagan language means God on earth. 

1 The English " Zamorin." According to some, this is a corruption 
of Tamuri, the name of the most exalted family of the Nair caste. 
Buchanan says : " The Tamuri pretends to he of a higher rank than 
the Brahmans, and to be inferior only to the invisible gods, a pretension 
that was acknowledged by his subjects, but which is held as absurd and 
abominable by the Brahmans, by whom he is only treated as a Sudra." 
(Pinkerton's Voyages, vol. viii. p. 735.) Others derive the title from 
Zamooclin, the sea ; and the Zamorin of Calicut is so called from his 
beina; the Lord of the Sea. 



Having nearly arrived at the head of India, that is to say, 
at the place in which the greatest dignity of India is cen- 
tered, it has appeared to me fitting to bring the First book to 
an end and commence the Second ; as, moreover, I have to 
lay before every kind reader matters of greater importance 
and comfort to the intellect, and of courage, so far as our 
favourite labour of travelling through the world may assist 
us and our intelligence may serve us, submitting, however, 
everything to the judgment of men who may, perhaps, have 
visited more countries than I have. 


Calicut 1 is on the mainland, the sea beats against the walls 
of the houses. There is no port here, but about a mile from 

1 Calicut, a seaport town in the British district of Malabar. " It is 
situate on the open beach, there being neither river nor haven ; and 
ships must anchor in the open sea. ..The haven, said to have been once 
capacious, has been filled up with drifted sand... Forbes, who visited it 
in 1772, speaks of it as offering very little to interest a traveller, being 
chiefly composed of low huts shaded by cocoa-nut trees, on a sandy 
shore." (Thornton's Gazetteer.) Ibn Batiita describes Calicut as "one 
of the greatest ports in the district of Malabar;" Nicolo de' Conti as "a 
maritime city, eight miles in circumference, a noble emporium for all 


the place towards the south there is a river, which is narrow 
at its embouchure and has not more than five or six spans of 
water. This stream flows through Calicut and has a great 
number of branches. This city has no wall around it, but 
the houses extend for about a mile, built close together, and 
then the wide houses, that is, the houses separate one from 
the other, 1 cover a space of about six miles. The houses are 
very poor. The walls are about as high as a man on horse- 
back, and the greater part are covered with leaves, and with- 
out any upper room. The reason is this, that when they 
dig down four or five spans, water is found, and therefore 
they cannot build large houses. 3 However, the house of a 
merchant is worth fifteen or twenty ducats. Those of the 
common people are worth half a ducat each, or one or two 
ducats at the most. 


The King of Calicut is a Pagan, and worships the devil 
in the manner you shall hear. They acknowledge that there 
is a God who has created the heaven and the earth and all 

India ;" and 'Abd er-Razzak as " a perfectly secure harbour, which, like 
that of Horinuz, brings together merchants from every city, and from 
every country." 

1 That is, houses with compounds, as the open space around them is 
called by Anglo-Indians. 

2 In a subsequent chapter, Varthema alleges the same reason for the 
lowness and insignificance of the Zamorin's palace at Calicut. The 
following extract from Hamilton seems to corroborate his statement : — 
" In anno 1703, about the middle of February, I called at Calecut on 
my way to Surat, and, standing into the road, I chanced to strike on 
some of the ruins of the sunken town built by the Portuguese in former 
times. Whether that town was swallowed up by an earthquake, as 
some affirm, or whether it was undermined by the sea, I will not deter- 
mine." Pinkerton's Voyages, vol. viii. p. 378. 


the world; 1 and they say that if he wished to judge you and 
me, a third and a fourth, he would have no pleasure in being 
Lord ; but that he has sent this his spirit, that is the devil, 
into this world to do justice: and to him who does good he does 
good, and to him who does evil he does evil. Which devil 
they call Deumo, 2 and God they call Tamerani. 3 And the 
King of Calicut keeps this Deumo in his chapel in his 
palace, in this wise : his chapel is two paces wide in each of 
the four sides, and three paces high, with a wooden door 
covered with devils carved in relief. 4 In the midst of this 
chapel there is a devil made of metal, placed in a seat also 
made of metal. The said devil has a crown made like that 
of the papal kingdom, with three crowns ; and it also has 
four horns and four teeth, with a very large mouth, nose, 
and most terrible eyes. The hands are made like those of a 
flesh-hook, and the feet like those of a cock ; so that he 
is a fearful object to behold. All the pictures around the 
said chapel are those of devils, and on each side of it there 

1 " They all believe in a great God, whose image they can neither 
fancy nor make." Hamilton. 

- " The word Dev means, indefinitely, a dweller in the upper worlds, 
and, more particularly, an inhabitant of Swerga, the paradise where 
Indra rules. Three hundred and thirty millions of Devs are spoken of 
in the Hindu scriptures ; but, in its sense of God, the term can only 
apply to one being." (See Forbes's Has Maid, vol. ii. pp. 423-442, for 
an able dissertation on this subject.) Varthema draws a distinction 
between a " Diavolo " and a " Sathanas," evidently making the latter 
the higher personage ; but it is surprising that he gives so tolerably 
correct an account of the Hindu theogony and worship. 

3 Tambaran, lord or master, is a common title of honour, throughout 
Malabar, among the higher classes of Nairs. 

4 " The great men of the clergy build temples, but they are neither 
large nor beautiful. Their images are all black and deformed, accord- 
ing as they fancy the infernal gods to be shaped, who, they believe, have 
some hand in governing the world, particularly about the benign and 
malignant seasons that happen in the productions or sterility of the 
earth, for which reason they pay a lateral adoration to them." (Pinker- 
ton's Voyages, vol. viii. p. 37C.) This quotation from Hamilton shows 
that, like Varthema, he understood the Devs to be devils. 


is a Sathanas seated in a seat, which seat is placed In a flame 
of fire, wherein are a great number of souls, of the length of 
half a finger and a finger of the hand. And the said Satha- 
nas holds a soul in his mouth with the right hand, and with 
the other seizes a soul under the waist. Every morning the 
Brahmins, that is the priests, go to wash the said idol all over 
with scented water, and then they perfume it ; l and when it 
is perfumed they worship it ; and some time in the course of 
the week they offer sacrifice to it in this manner : They have 
a certain small table, made and ornamented like an altar, 
three spans high from the ground, four spans wide, and five 
long ; which table is extremely well adorned with roses, 
flowers, and other ornaments. Upon this table they have 
the blood of a cock and lighted coals in a vessel of silver, 
with many perfumes upon them. They also have a thurible, 
with which they scatter incense around the said altar. They 
have a little bell of silver which rings very frequently, and 
they have a silver knife with which they have killed the 
cock, and which they tinge with the blood, and sometimes 
place it upon the fire, and sometimes they take it and make 
motions similar to those which one makes who is about to 
fence ; and finally, all that blood is burnt, the waxen tapers 
being kept lighted during the whole time. The priest who is 
about to perform this sacrifice puts upon his arms, hands, 
and feet some bracelets of silver, which make a very great 
noise like bells, and he wears on his neck an amulet (what 
it is I do not know) ; and when he has finished performing 
the sacrifice, he takes both his hands full of grain and retires 
from the said altar, walking backwards and always looking 
at the altar until he arrives at a certain tree. And when he 
has reached the tree, he throws the grain above his head as 

1 Forbes says : "The ordinary Hindu religious service consists in per- 
forming for the idol such acts as a menial servant performs for his 
human master." Among these, which are given in detail, he describes 
the anointing of the Dev with sandal-wood dust and water, and the 
burning of incense before him. 


high as he can over the tree ; he then returns and removes 
everything from the altar. 1 


When the King of Calicut wishes to eat he uses the fol- 
lowing customs : you must know that four of the principal 
Brahmins take the food which the king is to eat and carry 
it to the devil, and first they worship him in this manner : 
they raise their clasped hands over his head, and then draw 
their hands towards them, still clasped together, and the 
thumb raised upwards, and then they present to him the 
food which is to be given to the king, and stand in this 
manner as long as a person would require to eat it ; and then 
the said Brahmins carry that food to the king. You must 
know that this is done only for the purpose of paying honour 
to that idol, in order that it may appear that the king will 
not eat unless the food has been first presented to Deumo. 2 

1 I have not been able to verify this particular service ; but it is 
generally known that animal sacrifices, propitiatory of the Bhuta, or 
•wicked spirits, are offered by several sects of the Brahmins. Among 
the victims so offered by the Hindus of Mysore, the Abbe Dubois men- 
tions buflalos, hogs, rams, cocks, and the like. The amulet (pentacola) 
noticed by Varthema was probably the pwavvi , or Brahminical thread. 

2 An apt illustration of what St. Paul says (1 Cor. viii.) respecting 
meats offered to idols. 

A Brahmin can only eat of what is prepared by one of his own caste. 
Buchanan states that the Kuriim, the highest order of Nairs in Malabar, 
act as cooks on all public occasions, which, among Hindus, is a sure 
mark of transcendent rank ; for every person can eat the food prepared 
by one of higher birth than himself. Marco Polo notices the custom 
prevailing among the Brahmins of eating off leaves: — "Instead of dishes, 
they lay their victuals on dry leaves of the apples of Paradise," meaning, 
probably, the plantain. See Pinkerton's Voyages, vol. viii. pp. 735-6. 
Gkeene's Collection, vol. iv. p. 610. 

The elaborate ceremonial of a Brahmin's repast is thus described by 
Forbes: — "The Brahmin, when his food is ready, before eating, performs 


This food is in a wooden vessel, in which there is a very- 
large leaf of a tree, and upon this leaf is placed the said 
food, which consists of rice and other things. The king eats 
on the ground without any other thing. And when he eats, 
the Brahmins stand around, three or four paces distant from 
him, with great reverence, and remain bowed down with 
their hands before their mouths, and their backs bent. No 
one is allowed to speak while the king is speaking, and they 
stand listening to his words with great reverence. When 
the king has finished his meal, the said Brahmins take that 
food which the king did not require and carry it into a court 
yard and place it on the ground. And the said Brahmins 
clap their hands three times, and at this clapping a very 
great number of black crows come to this said food and eat 
it. 1 These crows are used for this purpose, and they are free 

Turjmn, that is to say, he fills a copper with water, and puts therein a 
few grains of barley, some sesamum, leaves of the sacred basil tree, 
sandal, etc. ; then, holding some sacrificial grass, he fills his joined 
hands with water, which he pours back again into the cup, saying : ' I 
offer this water to all the Devs.' He proceeds to make similar offerings 
of water to men, animals, trees, rivers, seas, Bhuts, Frets, Reeshees, pro- 
genitors, and others. Then he mentions the names, as many as he can 
recollect, of his father's ancestors, his mother's ancestors, and his own 
deceased friends. He now performs horn, or fire worship, by throwing a 
portion of rice and clarihed butter into a little copper or earthen vessel 
containing fire, repeating, while so employed, the names of the Devs. 
The Brahmin sets aside five portions of food for cows, beggars, dogs, ants, 
and crows. He then takes a little of each dish, and offers it to the 
Dev, in a vessel containing five divisions. He now sits down to break- 
fast." lids Maid, vol. ii. p. 257. 

1 In Western India these birds do not generally wait to be summoned: 
the difficulty is to scare them away when food is being served. Their 
cunning, moreover, equals their pertinacity. I once saw a proof of this, 
which I could hardly have believed on the testimony of another. A 
flock of crows covered the branches of a tree, waiting for any offal from 
a dinner which had just terminated. A dog brought out a bone into 
the garden, and was quietly enjoying it, when the whole bevy alighted 
and commenced an attack upon him in front. As often as they charged 
in that direction the dog kept them at bay, until at length, as if by 
concert among themselves, one of the assailants moved to the rear and 


and go wherever they please, and no injury is done to 


It is a proper, and at the same time a pleasant thing to 
know who these Brahmins are. You must know that they 
are the chief persons of the faith, as priests are among us. 
And when the king takes a wife he selects the most worthy 
and the most honoured of these Brahmins and makes him 
sleep the first night with his wife, in order that he may de- 
flower her. 1 Do not imagine that the Brahmin goes willingly 
to perform this operation. The king is even obliged to pay 
him four hundred or five hundred ducats. The king only 
and no other person in Calicut adopts this practice. We 
will now describe what classes [or castes] of Pagans there are 
in Calicut. 


The first class of Pagans in Calicut are called Brahmins. 
The second are Naeri, who are the same as the gentlefolks 

quietly pecked at the clog's tail. While he savagely faced about to re- 
pel this unexpected assault, one of the enemy in front pounced upon the 
contested bone and carried it away in triumph. 

1 Hamilton says : " When the Samorin marries, he must not cohabit 
with his bride till the Nambourie, or chief priest, has enjoyed her, and, 
if he pleases, he may have three nights of her company, because the 
first-fruits of her nuptials must be an holy oblation to the god she wor- 
ships." Buchanan confirms the statement: —"These ladies [of the Tamuri 
family] are generally impregnated by Namburis ; although if they choose 
they may employ the higher ranks of Nairs ; but the sacred character of 
the Namburis always procures them a preference." Pinkeiiton's Voy- 
ages, vol. viii. pp. 374, 734. 


amongst us ; and these are obliged to bear sword and shield 
or bows or lances. When they go through the street, if 
they did not carry arms they would no longer be gentlemen. 
The third class of Pagans are called Tiva, who areartizans. The 
fourth class are called Mechua, and these are fishermen. 
The fifth class are called Poliar, who collect pepper, wine, 
and nuts. The sixth class are called Hirava, and these 
plant and gather in rice. These two last classes of people, 
that is to say, the Poliar and Hirava, may not approach 
cither the Naeri or the Brahmins within fifty paces, unless 
they have been called by them, and they always go by 
private ways through the marshes. And when they pass 
through the said places, they always go crying out with a 
loud voice, and this they do in order that they may not meet 
the Naeri or the Brahmins ; for should they not be crying 
out, and any of the Narei should be going that way and see 
their fruits, or meet any of the said class, the above men- 
tioned Naeri may kill them without incurring any punish- 
ment : and for this reason they always cry out. So now 
you have heard about these six classes of Pagans. 1 

1 Hamilton's classification reads like a revised version of Vartherna's : 
— " There are many degrees or dignities in the church as well as in the 
state. The Nambouris are first in both capacities. The Brahmins are 
the second in the church only. The Buts, or magicians, are next to 
them. The Nayers, or gentlemen, are next, and are very numerous. 
The Teyvees are the farmers of cocoa-nut trees, and are next to the 
gentry. The Poulias "produce the labourers and mechanics. The Muck- 
was, or fishers, are I think a higher tribe than the Poulias, but the 
PouUchees are the lowest order of human creatures, and are excluded 
from the benefit of divine and human laws. If a Poulia or Teyvee meet 
a Nair on the road, he must go aside to let his worship pass, lest the air 
should be tainted, on pain of severe chastisement if not of death ; but 
the Poulichees are in a much worse state... If accidentally they see any 
one coming towards them, they will howl like dogs, and run away, lest 
those of quality should take offence at their breathing in the same air 
that they do." The Poulichees seem to be the same people that 
Buchanan describes under the name of Niadis, and both bear a general 
resemblance to Vartherna's " Hirava," though he describes them as culti- 
vators of rice, whereas the former are not allowed to till the ground, but 





The dress of the king and queen, and of all the others, 
that is to say, of the natives of the country, is this : they go 
naked and with bare feet, and wear a piece of cotton or of 
silk around their middle, and with nothing on their heads. 1 
Some Moorish merchants, on the other hand, wear a short 
shirt extending to the waist ; but all the Pagans go without 
a shirt. In like manner the women go naked like the men, 
and wear their hair long. With respect to the food of the 
king and the gentlemen, they do not eat flesh without the 
permission of the Brahmins. But the other classes of the 
people eat flesh of all kinds, with the exception of cow beef. 3 
And these Hirava and foliar eat mice and fish dried in the 


The king being dead, and having male children, or 
brothers, or nephews on his brother's side, neither his sons, 
nor his brother, nor his nephews become king ; but the heir 
of the king is the son of one of his sisters. 3 And if there be 

dwell in woods and marshes, and subsist chiefly on hunting and beg- 
ging. See Pinkerton's Voyages, vol. viii. pp. 375, 738-9. 

1 As Ralph Fitch quaintly says : " The king goeth incached, as they 
do all." 

2 "None of the southern Brahmins can, without losing caste, taste 
animal food... The Nairs are permitted to eat venison, goats, fowls, and 
fish." Buchanan. 

3 Buchanan confirms this. He says : " The succession goes in the 
female line ;" and adds, in speaking of a particular case wherein a 
nephew was heir to the rajahship : " his son will have no claim to it, 
and he will be succeeded by the son of his niece, who is the daughter of 


no son of a said sister, the nearest [collateral] relation of the 
king succeeds him. And this custom prevails because the 
Brahmins have the virginity of the queen ; and likewise 
when the king travels, one of these Brahmins, although he 
might be only twenty years of age, remains in the house 
with the queen, and the king would consider it to be the 
greatest favour that these Brahmins should be familiar with 
the queen, and on this account they say that it is certain that 
his sister and he were born of the same person, and that there 
is more certainty about her than of his own children, and 
therefore the inheritance falls to the sons of the sister. Also on 
the death of the king all the people of the kingdom shave their 
beards and their heads, with the exception of some part of 
the head, and also of the beard, according to the pleasure of 
each person. The fishermen also are not allowed to catch 
any fish for eight days. The same customs are observed 
when a near relative of the king dies. As an act of devotion, 
the king does not sleep with a woman or eat betel for a 
whole year. This betel resembles the leaves of the sour 
orange, and they are constantly eating it. It is the same to 
them that confections are to us, and they eat it more for 
sensuality than for any other purpose. AVhen they eat the 
said leaves, they eat with them a certain fruit which is called 
coffolo, and the tree of the said coffolo is called Arecha, 1 and 
is formed like the stem of the date tree, and produces its 
fruit in the same manner. And they also cat with the said 
leaves a certain lime made from oyster shells, which they 
call Cionama? 

his sister." (Pinkerton's Voyages, vol. viii. p. 745.) It was the same 
in Ibn Batiita's time : — " Each of their kings succeeds to rule as being 
sister's son, not the son to the last." Lee's Translation, p. 167. 

1 The Areca palm. 

2 Chunam, the common Hindustani word for lime. 



The Pagan gentlemen and merchants have this custom 
amongst them. There will sometimes be two merchants who 
will be great friends, and each will have a wife ; and one 
merchant will say to the other in this wise : " Langal per- 
ganal monaton ondo ?" 1 that is, " So-and-so, have we been a 
long time friends ? " The other will answer : " Hognan 
perga manaton ondo ;" that is, " Yes, I have for a long time 
been your friend." The other says: " Nipatanga ciolli ? " 
that is, " Do you speak the truth that you are my friend ? " 
The other will answer, and say : " Ho ; " that is, " Yes." 
Says the other one : " Tamarani ? " that is, " By God ? " 
The other replies : " Tamarani ! " that is, " By God ! " One 

1 I had hoped to have been able, by the assistance of others, to reduce 
this and the subsequent native words and phrases introduced by Var- 
thema into readable Malayalim, in the same manner as I have treated 
his Arabic sentences ; but the attempt has proved unsuccessful. Two 
Malayalim scholars, to whom they were submitted, concur in forming a 
very low estimate of our traveller's attainments in that language. One 
of the gentlemen states that a the majority of the words are not 
Malayalim, or, if they are, the writer has trusted to his ear, and made a 
marvellous confusion, which I defy anybody to unravel." This is not 
to be wondered at ; on the contrary, there would have been reasonable 
ground for surprise if, under his peculiar circumstances, Varthema had 
succeeded in mastering, even to a tolerable extent, any one of the 
native languages. During his sojourn in the country, which was com- 
paratively short, and seldom lasting more than a few days at each place, 
he must have heard several different dialects spoken, without any 
definite knowledge, perhaps, that they were such. Moreover, as his 
most intimate associates appear to have been the Arab traders, who, 
however long their intercourse with India, seldom speak any of the 
native languages correctly, he most probably acquired most of his vocabu- 
lary from them, jumbling that up with words and phrases which he had 
picked up here and there along the coast. The specimens of his Arabic 
are undoubtedly far superior to his essays in Malayalim, and, although 
strongly Italianized, by no means inferior to the colloquial of the 
majority of his countrymen at the present day after a much longer 
residence in the East where that is the vernacular language. 


says : " In penna tonda gnan pcnna cortu; " that is, " Let us 
exchange wives, give me your wife and I will give you 
mine." The other answers: " Ni pantagocciolli? " that is, 
" Do you speak from your heart ? " The other says : 
"Tamarani!" that is, " Yes, by God!" His companion 
answers, and says : " Biti banno ; " that is, " Come to my 
house." And when he has arrived at his house he calls his 
wife and says to her : " Penna, ingaba idocon dopoi ; " that 
is, " Wife, come here, go with this man, for he is your hus- 
band." The wife answers: "E indi?" that is, "Wherefore? 
Dost thou speak the truth, by God, Tamarani?" The hus- 
band replies : " Ho gran patangociolli; " that is, " I speak 
the truth." Says the wife : " Perga manno ; " that is, " It 
pleases me." " Gnan poi ; " that is, " I go." And so she 
goes away with his companion to his house. The friend then 
tells his wife to go with the other, and in this manner they 
exchange their wives; but the sons of each remain with him. 
And amongst the other classes of Pagans above-mentioned, 
one woman has five, six, and seven husbands, and even 
eight. 1 And one sleeps with her one night, and another 
another night. And when the woman has children, she says 

1 The polyandria which prevailed at Calicut is also described by 
Nicolo de' Conti and 'Abd er-Razzak. The three accounts vary in detail, 
and, as might be expected on a subject so intimately connected with the 
domestic life of the natives, involve several misconceptions. Dr. 
Buchanan's more accurate version of the custom is as follows: — "The 
Nail's marry before they are ten years of age ;...but the husband never 
cohabits with his wife. Such a circumstance, indeed, would be con- 
sidered very indecent. He allows her oil, clothing, ornaments, and food; 
but she lives in her mother's house, or, after her parents' death, with 
her brother, and cohabits with any person she chooses of an equal or 
higher rank than her own. ..It is no kind of reflection on a woman's 
character to say that she has formed the closest intimacy with many 
persons ; on the contrary, the Nail women are proud of reckoning 
among their favoured lovers many Brahmins, Rajahs, or other persons 
of high birth. ..In consequence of this strange manner of propagating 
1 1 10 species, no Nair knows his father, and every man looks on his sisters' 
children as his heirs." Pinkerton's Voyages, vol. viii. p. 737. 


it is the child of this husband or of that husband, and thus 
the children go according to the word of the woman. 




The said Pagans eat on the ground in a metal basin, and 
for a spoon make use of the leaf of a tree, and they always 
eat rice and fish, and spices and fruits. The two classes of 
peasants eat with the hand from a pipkin ; and when they 
take the rice from the pipkin, they hold the hand over the 
said pipkin and make a ball of the rice, and then put it into 
their mouths. With respect to the laws which are in use 
among these people: — If one kills another, the king causes a 
stake to be taken four paces long and well pointed at one 
end, and has two sticks fixed across the said stake two spans 
from the top, and then the said wood is fixed in the middle 
of the back of the malefactor and passes through his body, 
and in this way he dies. And this torture they call imcalvet. 
And if there be any one who inflicts wounds or bastinadoes, 
the king makes him pay money, and in this manner he is 
absolved. And when any one ought to receive money from 
another merchant, there appearing any writing of the scribes 
of the king, (who has at least a hundred of them,) they observe 
this practice : — Let us suppose the case that some one has to 
pay me twenty-five ducats, and the debtor promises me to 
pay them many times, and does not pay them ; I, not being 
willing to wait any longer, nor to give him any indulgence, 
shall take a green branch in my hand, shall go softly behind 
the debtor, and with the said branch shall draw a circle on 
the ground surrounding him, and if I can enclose him in the 
circle, I shall say to him these words three times : " Bra- 
mini raza pertha polle ; " that is, " I command you by the 


head of the Brahmins and of the king, that you do not depart 
hence until you have paid me and satisfied me as much as I 
ought to have from thee." And he will satisfy me, or truly 
he will die there without any other guard. And should he 
quit the said circle and not pay me, the king would put him 
to death. 1 

1 It is remarkable that the administration of justice in India has been 
the theme of general admiration from the earliest times. Greek and 
Roman writers, from Diodorus Siculus downward, have eulogized it, 
Marco Polo witnesses on the same side, and later Arabian authors con- 
firm their favourable testimony. El-Edrisi says : " Justice is a natural 
instinct among the inhabitants of India, and they hold nothing in equal 
estimation. It is stated that their numbers and prosperity are due to 
their integrity, their fidelity in fulfilling engagements, and to the general 
uprightness of their conduct. It is, moreover, on this account that 
visitors to their country have increased, that the country nourishes, and 
that the people thrive in plenty and in peace. As a proof of their ad- 
herence to what is right and their abhorrence of what is wrong may be 
instanced the following usage : if one man owes another money, the 
creditor finding him anywhere draws a line in the shape of a ring 
around him. This the creditor enters, and also the debtor of his own 
free will, and the latter cannot go beyond it until he has satisfied the 
claimant ; but should the creditor decline to force him, or chooses to 
forgive him, he, the creditor, steps out of the ring." 'Abd er-Razzak 
also, speaking of Calicut, says : " Security and justice are so firmly 
established in this city, that the most wealthy merchants bring thither 
from maritime countries considerable cargoes, which they unload, and 
unhesitatingly send into the market and bazaars, without thinking in 
the meantime of any necessity of checking the account, or of keeping 
watch over the goods." India in the Fifteenth Century, i. p. 14. 

The mode of procedure against debtors, as described by El-Edrisi 
and Varthema, and which Marco Polo, before them, states to have seen 
carried out against the person of the king of Malabar, is confirmed by 
Hamilton with slight variation : — " They have a good way of arresting 
people for debt, viz. there is a proper person sent with a small stick from 
the judge, who is generally a Brahmin, and when that person finds the 
debtor, he draws a circle round him with that stick, aud charges him in 
the king and judge's name not to stir out of it till the creditor is satis- 
fied either by payment or surety ; and it is no less than death for the 
debtor to break prison by going out of the circle." Pinkerton's Voy- 
ages, vol. viii. p. 377. 

Diodorus Siculus mentions the punishment by impaling as existing in 
India. Lib. ii. 18. 



Early in the morning these Pagans go to wash at a tank, 
which tank is a pond of still water. And when they are 
washed, they may not touch any person until they have said 
their prayers, and this in their house. 1 And they say their 
prayers in this manner : — They lie with their body extended 
on the ground and very secret, and they perform certain dia- 
bolical actions [or motions] with their eyes, and with their 
mouths they perform certain fearful actions [or motions] ; 
and this lasts for a quarter of an hour, and then comes the 
hour for eating. And they cannot eat unless the cooking is 
performed by the hands of a gentleman, for the ladies only 
cook for themselves. And this is the custom among the 
gentlemen. The ladies wait to wash and perfume them- 
selves. And every time that a man wishes to associate with 
his wife, she washes and perfumes herself very delicately ; 
but, under any circumstances, they always go scented and 
covered with jewels, that is to say, on their hands and in 
their ears, on their feet and on their arms. 


In general they practise every day with swords, shields, 
and lances. And when they go to war, the king of Calicut 
maintains constantly one hundred thousand people on foot, 
because they do not make use of horses, only of some ele- 

1 Brahmins are obliged to wash the whole body before eating. Some 
are under a vow to bathe before sun-rise, which they do either in warm 
water at home, or in a tank or river. After dressing, the Brahmin sits 
down to eat, but must preserve himself from numerous accidents which 
would render him impure, and compel him to desist from his meal. See 
Forbes's Rds Maid, vol. ii. pp. 255-8. 


phants for the person of the king. And all the people wear 
a cloth bound round the head, made of silk and of a vermilion 
colour, and they carry swords, shields, lances, and bows. 
The king carries an umbrella 1 instead of a standard, made 
like the stem of a boot : it is formed of the leaves of a tree, 
and is fixed on the end of a cane, and made to keep off the 
sun from the king. And when they are in battle, and one 
army is distant from the other two ranges of a crossbow, 
the king says to the Brahmins : " Go into the camp of the 
enemy, and tell the king to let one hundred of his Naeri 
come, and I will go with a hundred of mine. And thus they 
both go to the middle of the space, and begin to fight in this 
manner. Although they should fight for three days, they 
always give two direct blows at the head and one at the legs. 
And when four or six on either side are killed, the Brahmins 
enter into the midst of them, and make both parties return 
to their camp. And the said Brahmins immediately go to 
the armies on both sides, and say : " Nur manezar hanno." 
The king answers : " Matile ?" that is, " Do you not wish for 
any more ?" The Brahmin says : " No." And the adverse 
party does the same. And in this manner they fight, one 

1 The chattra, or black Chinese umbrella, commonly used in India, 
when folded up, looks something like the leg of a boot. It is one 
of the insignia of royalty throughout India, as it is with several other 
eastern nations. Malcolm supposes the word " satrap" to be a cor- 
ruption of chattrapa, lord of the umbrella of state, which, it is pro- 
bable, those provincial rulers only were allowed to bear. He adds : 
" The distinction of carrying an umbrella is common to many countries 
of Asia ; and that it was known in Persia, there can be no better evi- 
dence than the sculpture of Persepolis, where the umbrella often marks 
the prince, or chief, of the group of figures. Chattra, which signifies 
umbrella, is a term common to Persian and Sanscrit. Pa, a contraction 
of pati, i.e. lord, is now lost in the former though preserved in the latter 
language. The name, or rather title, of Chattra pati, or " lord of the 
umbrella," distinguishes one of the highest officers of the federal govern- 
ment of tbe Mahratta state." {History of Persia, vol. i. p. 271, n.) 
Within my own recollection, no person was allowed to pass before the 
Sultan's palace on the Bosphorus without lowering his umbrella. 


hundred against one hundred. And this is their mode of 
fighting. Sometimes the king rides on an elephant, and 
sometimes the Naeri carry him. And when they carry him 
they always run. And many instruments sounding always 
accompany the said king. To the said Naeri he gives as 
pay to each four carlini the month, and in time of war he 
gives half a ducat. And they live on this pay. The before- 
mentioned race have black teeth, on account of the leaves 
which I have already told you they eat. When the Naeri 
die they are burnt with very great solemnity, and some pre- 
serve their ashes. But with respect to the common people, 
after death some bury them within the door of their house ; 
others, again, in their garden. 1 The money of the said city 
is struck here, as I have already told you in Narsinga. And 
inasmuch as, at the time when I was in Calicut, there were 
a very large number of merchants there from different coun- 
tries and nations, I being desirous of knowing who these 
persons were, so different one from the other, asked, and 
was informed that there were here very many Moorish mer- 
chants, many from Mecca, a part from Banghella, some from 
Ternasseri, some from Pego, very many from Ciormandcl, 
in great abundance from Zailani, a great quantity from 
Sumatra, not a few from Colon and Caicolon, a very great 
number from Bathacala, from Dabuli, from Chievuli, from 
Combeia, from Guzerati, and from Ormus. There were also 
some there, from Persia and from Arabia Felix, part from 
Syria, from Turkey, and some from Ethiopia and Narsinga. 
There were merchants from all these realms in my time. It 
must be known that the Pagans do not navigate much, but it 
is the Moors who carry the merchandize ; for in Calicut 
there are at least fifteen thousand Moors, who are for the 
greater part natives of the country. 2 

1 This is confirmed by Buchanan, who says that the Nairs bum their 
dead, but most of the inferior castes bury. 

2 That the Hindoos have never been seamen may be inferred from the 



It appears to me very suitable and to the purpose, that I 
should explain to you how these people navigate along the 
coast of Calicut, and at what time, and how they build their 
vessels. First, they make their vessels, such as are open, 
each of three hundred or four hundred butts. And when 
they build the said vessels they do not put any oakum be- 
tween one plank and another in any way whatever, but they 
join the planks so well that they keep out the water most 
excellently. And then they lay on pitch outside, and put 
in an immense quantity of iron nails. Do not imagine, 
however, that they have not any oakum, for it comes there 
in great abundance from other countries, but they are not 
accustomed to use it for ships. 1 They also possess as good 

almost universal silence of ancient writers on India regarding their 
maritime affairs, whereas most of them describe the constitution of an 
Indian army in detail. It seems highly probable, indeed, that the laws 
of Manu, which mention bottomry, and which led Sir William Jones to 
infer that the Hindoos must have been navigators in the age of that 
work, referred primarily to river navigation, the superintendence of 
which was committed to water-bailiffs, whose business, besides, it was to 
keep the boundaries of the fields, to take care that each derived benefit 
from the conduits and canals, etc. (See Manu, viii. 408-9.) Arrian 
states expressly that sea-voyages were forbidden, and Pliny, that Indians 
never emigrate (vi. 20) ; and although it may be conceded that their 
navigation was not absolutely confined to rivers, nevertheless the weight 
of testimony is decidedly against the idea that they were mariners in 
the ordinary sense of the word. 

It was undoubtedly the natural or religious antipathy of the Hindoos 
for the sea, or a combination of both sentiments, which threw the navi- 
gation of the Indian ocean, from the earliest ages, into the hands of the 
more nautical Arabs, who thereby succeeded eventually in acquiring a 
predominating influence on the western coast. The same aversion, pro- 
ceeding from religious prejudice, is noticed by Marco Polo, who in de- 
scribing the customs of the Malabariaus remarks, that the testimony of 
one who sails by sea was not admissible, because such men were regarded 
as desperate. See Pinkekton's Voyages, vol. vii. p. 163. 

1 This description coincides generally with the existing mode of ship- 


timber as ourselves, and in greater quantity than with us. 1 
The sails of these ships of theirs are made of cotton, and at 
the foot of the said sails they carry another sail, and they 
spread this when they are sailing in order to catch more 
wind ; so that they carry two sails where we carry only one. 
They also carry anchors made of marble, that is to say, a 
piece of marble eight palmi long and two palmi every other 
way. The said marble has two large ropes attached to it ; 
and these are their anchors. The time of their navigation 
is this: from Persia to the Cape of Cumerin, which is dis- 
tant from Calicut eight days' journey by sea towards the 
south. You can navigate through eight months in the year, 
that is to say, September to all April ; then, from the first 
of May to the middle of August it is necessary to avoid this 
coast because the sea is very stormy and tempestuous. And 
you must know that during the months of May, June, July, 
and August, it rains constantly night and day ; it does not 
merely rain continually, but every night and every day it 
rains, and but little sun is seen during this time. During 
the other eight months it never rains. 2 At the end of April 
they depart from the coast of Calicut, and pass the Cape of 
Cumerin, and enter into another course of navigation, which 
is safe during these four months, and go for small spices. 3 As 

building on the Malabar coast. Marco Polo states, however, that the 
vessels which were constructed there in his time were well caulked with 
oakum. A mistake on his part, or, perhaps, of his English translator. 

1 In a Report published by the Royal Asiatic Society, (No. iv. 350- 
369,) one hundred and twenty valuable sorts of timber are enumerated 
as produced in Malabar. 

2 A generally correct statement of the prevailing winds and weather 
during the two monsoons. 

3 Many vessels quit the Malabar coast at that season of the year for 
the Indian Archipelago, and return thither, or proceed to the Persian 
Gulf or the Red Sea, at the opening of the north-east monsoon ; "for the 
south-west monsoon, which prevails outside of Achin-head, from April to 
October, seldom blows far into the strait, particularly near the Sumatra 
side, for the force of the monsoon being repelled by the mountains and 


to the names of their ships, some are called SambucJii and 
these are flat-bottomed. Some others which are made like 
ours, that is in the bottom, they call Capel. Some other 
small ships are called Parao, and they are boats of ten 
paces each, and are all of one piece, and go with oars made 
of cane, and the mast also is made of cane. There is another 
kind of small bark called Almadia, which is all of one piece. 
There is also another kind of vessel which goes with a sail 
and oars. These are all made of one piece, of the length of 
twelve or thirteen paces each. The opening is so narrow 
that one man cannot sit by the side of the other, but one is 
obliged to go before the other. They are sharp at both 
ends. These ships are called Chaturi, and go either with a 
sail or oars more swiftly than any galley, fasta, or brigantine. 1 
There are corsairs of the sea, and these Chaturi are made 
at an island which is near, called Porcai. 2 

high land, stretching from Achin along the coast of Pedri, it is succeeded 
hy light variable winds and calms, with sometimes land breezes or hard 
squalls from the Sumatra coast at night." IIoksburg's Directory, Part ii. 

1 These names of ships and boats furnish another indirect proof 
against the notion that the early Hindoos were navigators ; for with one 
exception, viz., that of Capel or Kapal, which Crawfurd says is of Telugu 
or Telinga origin, the remainder are derived from foreign sources. Prau 
belongs equally to the Malay and Javanese languages. Sambuch is 
from the Arabic Sanh&k. Almadia is the Arabic El-Maadtah, a ferry. 
And Chaturi I take to be a corruption of Shakhtiir, the ordinary name 
for a boat on the coast of Syria, and one not unknown in the Red Sea 
and the Persian Gulf. Fusta is the Italian for a kind of light galley. 

2 As there is no island so called in the vicinity of Calicut, I presume 
Varthema refers to the town of that name, situated on the coast, about 
two degrees farther south. " It has no haven or port of any kind, and 
ships trading there anchor in the open sea off the town in two fathoms 
water, one and a half or two miles from shore. It was formerly a place 
of much greater importance than it is at present, and was the principal 
place of a small raj or state, which was subverted in the year 1 74G by 
the rajah of Travancore." (Thornton's Gazetteer.) Barbosa gives the 
following description of the place : — " Porca has a lord of its own. Ilere 
many Gentile fishermen reside who do nothing, and have no other occu- 
pation than that of fishing during the winter, and of plundering on the 



The palace of the king is about a mile in circumference. 
The walls are low, as I have mentioned above, with very 
beautiful divisions of wood, with devils carved in relief. 
The floor of the house is all adorned with cow dung. 1 The 
said house is worth two hundred ducats or thereabouts. I 

sea during summer such as fall in their way. They possess certain small 
boats, like brigantines, which they row skilfully, and collecting many of 
these together, they themselves being armed with bows and arrows, 
they surround any ship that is becalmed, and after forcing it to surrender 
by means of their arrows, they proceed to plunder the crew and the ship, 
casting the men naked on the ground. The booty they divide with the 
lord of the country, who countenances them. This kind of boat they 
call Caturi." (Ramusio, vol. i. p. 312.) These piracies appear to have 
declined in Hamilton's time. He says : " Porcat or Porkah is of small 
extent, reaching not above four leagues along the seacoast. The rjrince 
is poor, having but little trade in his country, though it was a free port 
for pirates when Evory and Kid robbed along the coast of India ; but 
since then the pirates infest the northern coasts, finding the richest 
prizes amongst the Mocha and Persia traders." (Pinkerton's Voyages, 
vol. viii. p. 383.) Baldseus calls the place Percatti, and iu Keith John- 
ston's superb new atlas it is written ParraJcad. 

Query ? Is the whole or any part of the territory which formerly 
constituted the small state of Porca ever insulated by the " Backwater 
of Cochin V Horsburgh does not enable me to decide the question, but 
judging from the maps it seems highly probable. 

1 A solutiou of cow dung (gobar) is in general use among the natives 
throughout India for anointing the walls and floors of their mud huts, 
on account of its binding and supposed purifying properties. Buchanan 
says : " It is also much used as fuel, even where wood is abundant, 
especially by men of rank, as, from the veneration paid to the cow, it is 
considered as by far the most pure substance that can be employed. 
Every herd. of cattle, when at pasture, is attended by women, and those 
often of high caste, who with their hands gather the dung, and carry it 
home in baskets. They then form it into cakes, about half an inch 
thick, and nine in diameter, and stick them on the walls to dry. So 
different, indeed, are Hindu notions of cleanliness from ours, that the 
walls of their best houses are frequently bedaubed with these cakes." 
Pinkerton's Voyages, vol. viii. p. 612. 


now saw the reason why they could not dig foundations, on 
account of the water, which is close to them. 1 It would be 
impossible to estimate the jewels which the king wears, al- 
though in my time he was not in very good humour, in con- 
sequence of his being at war with the king of Portugal, and 
also because he had the French disease, 2 and had it in the 
throat. Nevertheless, he wore so many jewels in his ears, 
on his hands, on his arms, on his feet, and on his legs, that 
it M T as a wonder to behold. 3 His treasure consists of two 
magazines of ingots of gold, and stamped golden money, 
which many Brahmins said that a hundred mules could not 
carry. And they say, that this treasure has been left by 
ten or twelve previous kings, who have left it for the wants 
of the republic. This king of Calicut also possesses a casket 
three spans long and one and a half span high, filled with 
jewels of every description. 

1 See note on p. 136 ante. 

2 Framj or Frank is the common name among Arabs for the disease 
referred to. 

3 The following is a description of the Zamorin's dress when he gave 
audience to Pedro Alvarez Cabral in 1500 : — " He had only a piece of 
white cloth, embroidered with gold, about his middle : all the rest of his 
body being naked. On his head was a cap of cloth of gold. At his ears 
hung jewels, composed of diamonds, sapphires, and pearls, two of which 
were larger than walnuts. His arms, from the elbow to the wrist, and 
his legs, from the knees downwards, were loaded with bracelets, set with 
infinite precious stones of great value. His fingers and toes were covered 
with rings. In that of his great toe was a large ruby of surprising 
lustre. Among the rest was a diamond bigger than a large bean. But 
all this was as nothing compared with the richness of his girdle, made 
with precious stones set in gold, which cast a lustre which dazzled 
everybody's eyes. Near the Zamorin stood a chair of state and his litter, 
all of gold and silver, curiously made, and adorned with precious stones. 
There were three trumpets of gold and seventeen of silver, whose mouths 
were set with stones also ; not to mention the silver lamps and censers 
smoking with perfumes, and his golden spitting-basin." Greene's Col- 
lection, vol. i. p. 43. 



Many pepper trees are found in the territory of Calicut : 
there are also some within the city, but not in large quanti- 
ties. Its stem is like that of a vine, that is to say, it is 
planted near to some other tree, because, like the vine, it 
cannot stand erect. This tree grows like the ivy, which 
embraces and climbs as high as the wood or tree which it 
can grasp. The said plant throws out a great number of 
branches, which branches are from two to three pahni long. 
The leaves of these branches resemble those of the sour 
orange, but are more dry, and on the underneath part they 
are full of minute veins. From each of these branches there 
grow five, six, and eight clusters, a little longer than a man's 
finger, and they are like small raisins, but more regularly 
arranged, and are as green as unripe grapes. They gather 
them in this green state in the month of October and even 
in November, and then they lay them in the sun on certain 
mats, and leave them in the sun for three or four days, 
when they become as black as they are seen amongst us 
without doing anything else to them. And you must know 
that these people neither prune nor hoe this tree which pro- 
duces the pepper. 1 

1 " Pepper is proverbially styled the money of Malabar... The trailing 
plant which produces pepper is propagated by planting a cutting at the 
root of the jak, the mango, or other trees having rough bark, up which 
the vine climbs. After it has been planted it requires no great trouble 
or attentiou, the cultivator having little more to do than to collect the 
produce in the proper season. When the fruit is intended for black 
pepper, it is not allowed to ripen, but is collected green, and becomes 
black on drying. That which is intended for white pepper is left to 
ripen thoroughly, in which state the berries are covered with a red pulp, 
which beiug washed off, leaves the peppercorn white, and requiring 
merely to be dried to be fit for the market." (Thornton's Gazetteer.) 
Fitch says : " The shrub is like unto our ivy tree, and if it did not run 
about some tree or pole, it would fall down and rot. When first they 

158 ill I : TRAVELS OF 

In this place ginger also grows, which is a root, and of 
these same roots some are found of four, eight, and twelve 
ounces each. When they dig it, the stem of the said root is 
about three or four spans long, and is formed like some reeds 
[cannuze]. And when they gather the said ginger, in that 
same place they take an eye of the said root, which is like 
an eye of the cane, and plant it in the hole whence they have 
dug that root, and cover it up with the same earth. At the 
end of a year they return to gather it, and plant it in the 
aforesaid manner. 1 This root grows in red soil, and on 
the mountain, and in the plain, as the mirabolans grow, 
every kind of which is found here. 2 Their stem is like that 
of a middle-sized pear tree, and they bear like the pepper 

gather it, it is green ; and then they lay it in the sun and it becometh 
black." (Pinkerton's Voyages, vol. ix. p. 425.) Barbosa gives a de- 
tailed account of the plant, and also of the pepper trade shortly after 
the arrival of the Portuguese in India. Ramusio, vol. i. p. 322. 

1 Ilieronimo di Santo Stefano, who visited Calicut some years prior to 
Varthenia, describes the pepper-vine and ginger-shrub in similar terms. 
Of the latter, he says : " For the propagation of ginger, they plant the 
piece of a small fresh root, about the size of a small nut, which at the 
end of a month grows large. The leaf resembles that of a wild lilly." 
{India in the Fifteenth Century, iv. p. 4, 5.) Fitch likens the plant to 
" our garlic, and the root is the ginger." Dr. Buchanan states that the 
cuttings of ginger are planted between the months of April and May, 
and that between December and January the roots are fit for pulling. 
Those intended for replanting are mixed with a little mud, and immedi- 
ately buried in a pit. See A Journey from Madras through Mysore, &c, 
vol. ii. p. 469. 

- " Of Terminalia, the genus to which the Myrobalans belong, Wright 
and Arnott, in their Prodromus Flora Peninsulce Indue Orientalis, 
vol. i, p. 312 et seq., enumerate eleven species ; but probably only five of 
them have edible fruits, viz. : 

1. Terminalia Angustifolia, Jacq. 

2. „ Catappe, L. 

3. „ Bellerica, Roxb. 

4. „ Chebula, Roxb. 

5. „ Travancorensis, W. & A." J. J. Bennett. 



I found in Calicut a kind of fruit which is called Ciccara. 
Its stem is like that of a large pear tree. The fruit is two 
or two and a half palmi long, and is as thick as a man's thigh. 
This fruit grows on the trunk of the tree, that is to say, 
under the boughs, and partly on the middle of the stem. 
The colour of the said fruit is green, and it is formed like 
the pine, but the work is more minute. When it begins to 
ripen, the skin becomes black and appears rotten. This 
fruit is gathered in the month of December, and when it is 
eaten it seems as though you were eating musk melons, 
and it appears to resemble a very ripe Persian quince. It 
appears also, as though you were eating a preparation of 
honey, and it also has the taste of a sweet orange. "Within 
the said fruit there are some pellicles like the pomegranate. 
And within the said pellicles there is another fruit which, if 
placed on the embers of the fire and then eaten, you would 
say that they were most excellent chestnuts. So that this ap- 
pears to me to be the best and the most excellent fruit I ever 
ate. 1 Another fruit is also found here, which is called Amha, 

1 The fruit here described is obviously the Jack {Artocarpus integri- 
folia), the large seeds of which, when roasted, are frequently eaten. 
They were a favourite dish with my late lamented friend Sir James 
Outram, who used to say they were equal to chestnuts. Though the 
taste of the pulp is sweet, the smell is very disagreeable to Europeans. 
Varthema, who seems to affix the odour to the skin, is the only one of 
the old travellers who appears to have noticed this peculiarity. I cannot 
discover the origin of the name Ciccara which he gives to the fruit, 
unless it be a corruption of the Malayalim Tsjaka or Taca. Ibn 
Batuta mentions two species of the Jack, Esh-Shaki and El-Barki, and, 
in describing the fruit, say3 : " When it grows yellow in the autumn, 
they gather and divide it : and in the inside of each is from one to two 
hundred seeds. Its seed resembles that of a cucumber, and has a stone 
something like a large bean. When the stone is roasted, it tastes like a 
dried bean." (Lee's Translation, p. 105.) The distinction thus drawn 
between the seed and the stones of the Jack seems to justify Varthema 


the stem of which is called Manga. This tree is like a pear 
tree, and bears like the pear. This Amba is made like one of 
our walnuts in the month of August, and has that form ; and 
when it is ripe it is yellow and shining. ■ This fruit has a 
stone within like a dry almond, and is much better than the 
Damascus plum. A preserve is made of this fruit, such as 
we make of olives, but they are much superior. 1 Another 

in calling the latter " another fruit ;" and I am gratified to find that 
this inference is in a measure confirmed by the following valuable 
remarks communicated to me by John J. Bennett, Esq., of the British 
Museum, to whose kindness I am also indebted for several subsequent 
notes on the different fruits mentioned in this chapter : — 

" The fruit of the Jack is compound, and made up of a number of 
single-seeded fruits cohering together. It is singular that this fact, 
which is not very obvious at first sight, should have been partially 
noticed by these old writers. Roxburgh's description of it is as follows : 
' Fruit compound, oblong, murexed (muricate), from twelve to twenty 
inches long, from six to twelve in diameter, weighing from ten to sixty 
pounds. Seeds uniform, one in each germ, were all to come to maturity, 
which can never happen. They are about the size of a nutmeg, enve- 
loped in a thin, smooth, leathery sheath, lodged within the fleshy edible 
part of the fruit, which formed the exterior coverings of the germ, 
already noticed... The fruit of this tree is so universally known that it is 
unnecessary for me to say anything respecting its excellence, as well as 
that the seeds, when roasted, are not inferior to the best chestnuts. In 
Ceylon, where the tree grows most plentifully, and where the fruit 
attains to its greatest size, the inhabitants make them a very consider- 
able article of their diet.' Flora Indica, vol. iii. p. 532." 

1 Though he misapplies their import, it is remarkable that Varthema 
uses these two connexion with this fruit. Am, Amb, Amba or 
Anba, appears to be derived from the Sanscrit Amrd ; but, as written by 
Ibn Batuta, ''Anba, it resembles so closely the collective form ^Atiab, 
and the singular 'Anbah, the Arabic for grape, that I scarcely wonder at 
Professor Lee translating it by that word, more especially as there is no 
original name for the Mango in the Arabic language. The fruit is not 
indigenous to any part of Arabia, though a very inferior quality is now 
to be found in the southern parts of Yemen, and in the province of 
'Amman (Oman). I am able to fix the date of its introduction into the 
latter country (but, unfortunately, not the place from whence it was 
imported, though in all probability it was from India), by the following 
extract from a manuscript history of 'Amman in my possession, entitled 
El-F<.dh el-Mubin. The author, writing of El-Fellah ibn el-Muhsin, 


fruit is found here resembling a melon, and it has similar 
divisions, and when it is cut, three or four grains, which look 
like grapes or sour cherries, are found inside. The tree 
which bears this fruit is of the height of a quince tree, and 
forms its leaves in the same manner. This fruit is called 
Corcopal ; it is extremely good for eating, and excellent as a 
medicine. 1 I also found there another fruit, which is exactly 
like the medlar, but it is white like an apple. I do not re- 
member by what name it was called. 2 Again, I saw another 
kind of fruit which resembled a pumpkin in colour, is two 
spans in length, and has more than three fingers of pulp, 
and is much better than a gourd (zuccha) for confections, and 
it is a very curious thing, and it is called Comolanga, and 
grows on the ground like melons. 3 This country also pro- 

who ruled over a portion of that country towards the end of the fif- 
teenth century, says : " It was he who planted the ''Amba at Makniyat, 
and it increased in 'Amman where before it was unknown. It had been 
sent to him as a rarity, and described as an excellent fruit, so he caused 
a great many of those trees to be planted." 

The word Mango, according to Crawfurd, is a corruption of Mangga 
which, though used by Malays, he says was picked up by our traders at 
Bantam, v on the^coast of Sumatra. {Hist, of the Indian Archipelago, 
vol. i. p. 425.) The seafaring Arabs of Malabar probably borrowed it 
from the same source. 

1 The names given by Varthema to the fruits mentioned in this 
chapter do not appear to be in use at the present day, and Malayalim 
scholars fail to recognize them as belonging to that language. With 
regard to the Corcopal, Mr. Bennett remarks : " I can hardly give a 
guess. It might be the Papau, but differs in the character of the leaves, 
and in the number of seeds. Or, it might be a species of Diospyros.' 1 '' 

2 " The medlar-like fruit here described may be either the Rose-apple 
or the Guava, of both of which there are white-fruited varieties. The 
large open calyx in either may have suggested the comparison to a 
medlar." Bennett. 

3 " Probably nearly allied to, if not identical with, the Water melon." 
With regard to the Corcopal and Comolanga, Mr. Bennett observes : 
" I find that Julius Caesar Scaliger has been poaching in Varthema, 
whom he translates somewhat differently, not naming the source of his 
information. The following are his chapters with their headings : — 

" ' Melo Corcopali et Mespilum. Corcopal Indite provincia est : in qua 


duces another very singulai* fruit, which fruit is called 
Malapolanda. The tree which bears this fruit is as high as 
a man or a little more, and it produces four or five leaves 
which are branches and leaves. Each of these covers a man 
against rain and sun. In the middle of this it throws out a 
certain branch which "produces flowers in the same manner 
as the stalk of a bean, and afterwards it produces some fruits 
which are half a palmo and apalmo in length, and they are as 
thick as the staff of a spear. And when they wish to gather 
the said fruit they do not wait until it is ripe, because it 
ripens in the house. One branch will produce two hundred 
or thereabouts of these fruits, and they all touch one against 
the other. Of these fruits there are found three sorts. The 
first sort is called Cianchapalon ; these are very restorative 
things to eat. Their colour is somewhat yellow, and the 
bark is very thin. The second sort is called Cadelapalon, 
and they are much superior to the others. The third sort are 
bitter. The two kinds above mentioned are good like our 
figs, but superior. The tree of this fruit produces once and 
then no more. The said tree always has at its stem fifty or 
sixty shoots (figlioli), and the owners remove these shoots by 
the hand and transplant them, and at the end of a year they 
produce their fruit. And if the said branches are too green 
when they cut them, they put a little lime upon the said 
fruits to make them ripen quickly. You must know that a- 

cydonii magnitudine et foliis arbor prregrandem gerit fructum, melonis 
fi<nira, eodernque sulcatum modo. Intra quern terna quaternave grana, 
acinorurn uvse facie, acore cerasi. Ubi est adversus tuarn subtilitatern 
naturse simplicitas. Non enim granorum Humerus, uti tu volebas in 
Punicis, certus est : sicuti neque in Ciccara. Melonem banc et edendo 
esse, et ad medicinas utilem. Ibi Mespilum colore albo, Malo magni- 

" ' Comolanga. In eadem Corcopal Comolanga fructus esitatur, ses- 
quipede major, curcubitte colore, llumi jacet, ut melo. Pulpa; pluri- 
mum. Condimenta ex ea, vol cucurbitinis, quas Carabassades Hispani 
vocaut, vel citriis meliora, attpie sapidiora.' Exekcitatio clxxxi. cap. 
13, 15." Idem. 


very large quantity of such fruits is found at all times of the 
year, and twenty are given for a quattrino. 1 In like manner, 
roses and most singular flowers are found here on all the 
days of the year. 


I will describe another tree to you, the best in all the 
world, which is called Tenga,~ and is formed like the trunk 

1 " This is certainly the Plantain, in its several varieties, and very 
well described. With respect to its dying off after producing its fruit, 
I need only quote what Roxburgh says : ' They blossom at all seasons, 
though generally during the rains, and ripen their seed in five or six 
months afterwards. The plant then perishes down to the root, which 
long before this time has produced other shoots : these continue to grow 
up, blossom, etc., in succession for several years. Flora Intlica, i. p. 
663." Idem. 

Malapolanda may be a corruption of Videi pullum, which, according 
to Ainsiie, is the Tamil name for Plantain. See his Materia Indica, 
vol. i. sub voce Plantain. 

2 This is, obviously, the Cocoa-nut tree, the Malayalim name of which, 
according to Ainsiie, is Tdnghd. I am aware of none among the earlier 
travellers who has so thoroughly described this palm, and the several 
uses to which it is applied, as Varthema ; and the accuracy of his details 
may be tested by the following quotation from Seeman$v — " The cocoa- 
nut tree attains a height of from sixty to one hundred feet, and a 
diameter of one or two feet.. ..It flourishes best in a sandy soil. ..The 
wood is devoted to various purposes. The leaves are from eighteen to 
twenty feet long : the Cingalese split them in halves, and plait the seg- 
ments so as to form baskets. Under the denomination of cadjans, they 
form the usual covering of their huts, as well as of the European 
bungalows. The midribs of the leaves, when tied together, form brooms 
for the decks of ships... There is one portion of the tree which attracts 
much the attention of the observer, — it is a kind of net-work at the base 
of the petiole. It is stripped off in large pieces, and used in Ceylon as 
strainers, particularly for the toddy. A tree produces several bunches 
of nuts, and from twelve to twenty large nuts, besides several small un- 
productive ones, may be seen on each bunch. In good situations the 
fruit is gathered four or five times in the course of the year. The latter 

M 2 


of a date tree. Ten useful things are derived from this 
tree. The first utility is wood to burn; nuts to eat; ropes 
for maritime navigation ; thin stuffs which, when they are 
dyed, appear to be made of silk; charcoal' in the greatest 
perfection; wine; water; oil; and sugar: and with its leaves 
which fall, that is, when a branch falls, they cover the 
houses. And these ward off water for half a year. Were I to 
declare to you in what manner it accomplishes so many 
things you would not believe it, neither could you under- 
stand it. The said tree produces the above-named nuts in 
the same manner as the branch of a date tree ; and each tree 

is much used as an article of food, both meat and drink, when green or 
young : in that state it yields an abundance of a delicious cooling bever- 
age. The water, beautifully clear, has a sweetness, with a slight degree 
of astringency, which renders it agreeable... From the flower spathes, 
before the flowers are expanded, toddy or palm-wine is made. To pro- 
cure the toddy, the spathe is tied with strips of the young leaves to 
prevent its expansion. It is cut a little transversely from the top, and 
beaten either with the handle of the toddy-knife, or a small piece of 
ebony or iron-wood : this process having been continued morning and 
evening, (at dawn of day, and just as the sun declines below the horizon,) 
for five or six successive days, the under part of the spathe is taken off, 
so as to permit of its being gradually bent, when the toddy-drawers, for 
the purpose of keeping it in that position, attach it to some neighbour- 
in"- leaf-stalk. After a further period of five days, an earthen chatty or 
calabash is hung to the spathe, so as to receive the toddy that exudes, 
which is collected every morning and evening, and the spathe cut a little 
every day : the quantity collected varies much. 

" Fermentation takes place in a few hours after the toddy has been 
collected, when it is used by the bakers as yeast. ..Arrack is distilled 
from toddy, which also yields abundance of jaggery or sugar. ..The rind 
or husk of the cocoa-nut is very fibrous, and when ripe is the Roya or 
Coir of commerce... Another valuable production of the nut is the oil... 
The Malabar method of extracting it is by dividing the kernels into two 
equal parts, which are ranged on shelves made of the laths of the Betel- 
nut palm, or split bamboo, spaces being left between each lath of half 
an inch wide : under them a charcoal fire is then made, and kept up for 
two or three days, in order to dry them. After this process they are 
exposed to the sun on mats, and when thoroughly dried (then called 
Koppera) are placed in an oil-press or siccoor." Popular History of the 
Palms and thevr Allies, pp. 14(M7.">. 


will produce from one hundred to two hundred of these nuts, 
the outer part of which is taken off and used as firewood. 
And then, next to the second bark, there is taken off a 
certain substance like cotton or linen flax, and this is given 
to workmen to beat, and from the flower, stuffs which 
appear like silken stuffs are made. And the coarse part 
they spin, and make of it small cords, and of the small they 
make large cords, and these they use for the sea. Of the 
other bark of the said nut excellent charcoal is made. After 
the second bark the nut is good to eat. The size of the said 
fruit is [at first] that of the little finger of the hand. When 
the said nut begins to grow, water begins to be produced 
within ; and when the nut has arrived at perfection, it is full 
of water, so that there are some nuts which will contain four 
and five goblets of water, which water is a most excellent 
thing to drink, and is also like rose-water, and extremely 
sweet. Most excellent oil is made from the said nut, and 
thus you have eight utilities from it. Another branch of 
the said tree they do not allow to produce nuts, but they cut 
it in the middle and give it a certain inclination ; and in the 
morning and evening they make an opening with a knife, 
and then they apply a certain fluid and that fluid draws out 
a certain juice. And these men set a pot underneath and 
collect that juice, of which one tree will produce as much as 
half a jug between the day and the night. This they 
place over the fire and boil it one, two, and three times, 
so that it appears like brandy, and will affect a man's 
head by merely smelling it, to say nothing of drinking it. 
This is the wine which is drunk in these countries. From 
another branch of the said tree they produce in a similar 
manner this juice, and convert it into sugar by means of 
fire ; but it is not very good. The said tree always has fruit 
either green or dry, and it produces fruit in five years. 
These trees are found over two hundred miles of country, 
and all have owners. As to the goodness of this tree, when 


the kings are at enmity one with another, and kill each 
other's children, they nevertheless sometimes make peace. 
But if one king cut down any of these trees belonging to 
another king, peace will never be granted to all eternity. 1 
You must know that the said tree lives for twenty or five 
and twenty years, and grows in sandy places. And when 
these nuts are planted to produce these trees, and until they 
begin to germinate, or that the tree begins to grow from 
them, it is necessary that the men who plant them should 
go every evening to uncover them, in order that the cool 
night air may blow over them ; and early in the morning 
they return to cover them up, in order that the sun may not 
find them thus uncovered. And in this manner does this 
tree generate and grow. In this country of Calicut, there 
is found a great quantity of zerzalino, 2 from which they make 
very excellent oil. 


The men of Calicut, when they wish to sow rice, observe 
this practice. First, they plough the land with oxen as we 
do, and when they sow the rice in the field they have all 
the instruments of the city continually sounding and making 
merry. They also have ten or twelve men clothed like 

1 The Israelites were expressly forbidden to cut down food-bearing 
trees even in an enemy's country. (Deut. xx. 19.) To injure trees, 
according to Manu, was an offence proportioned to the value of the tree, 
(viii. 285.) Quintus Curtius was correct when he said of the ancient 
Hindus that they deified certain trees, which it was a capital crime to 
destroy. (Lib. viii. cap. 9.) " The ficus religiosa, and other trees, are 
never injured by the Hindus. Ward mentions a tree which was so much 
reverenced that not even its withered branches were permitted to be 
cut." Bombay Quarterly Magazine, October 1850. 

2 Sesame, see note 2, p. 86 ante. 


devils, and these unite in making great rejoicing with the 
players on the instruments, in order that the devil may make 
that rice very productive. 


When a merchant, that is, a Pagan, is sick and in great 

danger, the abovementioned instruments and the aforesaid 

men dressed like devils go to visit the sick man ; and they go 

at two or three o'clock in the morning ; and the said men so 

dressed carry fire in their mouths ; and in each of their hands 

and on their feet they wear two crutches of wood, which are 

one pace (passo) high, and in this manner they go shouting 

and sounding the instruments, so that truly if the person were 

not ill, he would fall to the ground from terror at seeing these 

ugly beasts. And these are the physicians who go to see and 

to visit the sick man. And although they should fill the 

stomach full up to the mouth, they pound three roots of 

ginger and make a cup of juice, and this they drink, and in 

three days they no longer have any illness, so that they live 

exactly like beasts. 1 

1 Hindus generally attribute all disease to malignant spiritual agency, 
which must be either propitiated or exorcised ; and although this notion 
does not wholly prevent their seeking relief from dietetics and physic, 
their chief reliance, nevertheless, is placed on medical thaumaturgy. 
The practitioners are men of low caste, who pretend to effect great cures 
by amulets, philtres, and various incantations, not unfrequently asso- 
ciated with a noisy display similar to that above described by Varthema. 
Buchanan mentions a tribe of Telinga origin, called the Pacanet Joghis, 
which is scattered over the peninsula, whose business consists in collect- 
ing and exhibiting the plants used in medicine. He says : " Their vir- 
tuous men, after death, are supposed to become a kind of gods, and 
frequently to inspire the living, which makes them speak incoherently, 
and enables them to foretel the event of diseases ;" and then adds : 
" Medicine in this country has, indeed, fallen into the hands of charla- 
tans equally impudent and ignorant." (Pinkerton's Voyages, vol. viii. 



The monc) r -changcrs and bankers of Calicut have some 
weights, that is, balances, which are so small that the box 
in which they stand and the weights together do not weigh 
half an ounce ; and they are so true that they will turn by 
a hair of the head. And when they wish to test any piece 
of gold, they have carats of gold as we have ; and they have 
the touchstone like us. And they test after our manner. 
When the touchstone is full of gold, they have a ball, of a 
certain composition which resembles wax, and with this ball, 
when they wish to see if the gold be good or poor, they 
press on the touchstone and take away some gold from the 
said touchstone, and then they see in the ball the goodness 
of the gold, and they say : " Idu mannu, Idu aga," that is, 
" this is good, and this is poor." And when that ball is 
full of gold they melt it, and take out all the gold which 
they have tested by the touchstone. The said money-changers 
are extremely acute in their business. The merchants have 
this custom when they wish to sell or to purchase their mer- 
chandise, that is, wholesale: — They always sell by the hands of 
the Cor tor or of the Leila, 1 that is, of the broker. And when 
the purchaser and the seller wish to make an agreement, 
they all stand in a circle, and the Cortor takes a cloth and 
holds it there openly with one hand, and with the other 
hand he takes the right hand of the seller, that is, the two 
fingers next to the thumb, and then he covers with the said 
cloth his hand and that of the seller, and touching each 
other with these two fingers, they count from one ducat up 

p. 669.) For some valuable remarks on Medical Thauuiaturgy in India, 
see the Bombay Quarterly Magazine for October 1850, and Fobbes's 
Chapter on Bhoots, Ras Mala, vol. ii. pp. 379-400. 

1 Cortor is probably a contraction of the Portuguese Mercador. Leila 
is doubtless a corruption of the Arabic Dallal, a go-between, a broker. 


to one hundred thousand secretly, without saying " I will 
have so much" or "so much." But in merely touching the 
joints of the fingers they understand the price and say : 
" Yes" or " No." And the Cortor answers " No" or " Yes." 
And when the Cortor has understood, the will of the seller, 
he goes to the buyer with the said cloth, and takes his hand 
in the manner above mentioned, and by the said touching 
he tells him he wants so much. The buyer takes the finger 
of the Cortor, and by the said touches says to him : " I will 
give him so much." 1 And in this manner they fix the price. 

1 This method of transacting business prevails among the Arabs in 
the Red Sea and along the north-eastern coast of Arabia. Dr. Beke also 
noticed it at the market of Baso in Abyssinia, and describes it thus : — 
" The principals or their brokers, seated on the ground, take each other's 
hand, — the hands being covered with their clothes so that they may not 
be seen, — and then by a peculiar grasping or pressing of the fingers 
they make known the price which they are respectively willing to give 
or accept. A few examples will best explain this : Having first settled 
between themselves whether the price in question is to be in gold 
(ounces,) in silver (dollars,) or in salt (amoles,) they then, if the price is 
in amoles, for fifty grasp the whole five fingers ; for forty, only four. 
For sixty they first grasp the whole five, and then say ' this,' and then, 
after a momentary pause, add 'and this,' accompanying the latter words 
with the pressure of one finger only. One hundred dmoles would be five 
fingers and then again five, or simply a single finger ; 110, one finger 
alone, say 'this' — ' and this,' and pressing it twice ; 120 would, of course, 
be first one finger and then two. If the price is settled in silver or gold, 
then it will be two, three, or four fingers, according to their value ; and 
subdivisions of the wokiet [ounces] are made known by pressing the nail 
of the forefinger on the forefinger of the other party, the end joint being 
^, the second joint or middle of the finger J, and the middle of the first 
phalanx f . As it mostly happens that several persons are interested, — 
or, if not so, at all events take part in the transaction as friends or 
advisers, — its progress is communicated to them by the principals 
through their other hands, which are in like manner hidden under their 
clothes ; and thus the price can be passed on in succession to an in- 
definite number of individuals, without its being once openly named. 
When any of these think the amount offered sufficient, they cry out 
' sell, sell ;' and should the conclusion of the bargain be long delayed, 
this cry is repeated, making a curious impression on a bystander, who 
may not happen to be aware what is going on." Letters on the Com- 
merce and Politics of Abyssinia, p. 19. 


If the merchandise about which they treat be spices, they 
deal by the bahar, which bahar weighs three of our cantari. 
If they be stuffs, they deal by curia, and in like manner 
if they be jewels. By a curia is understood twenty ; or, 
indeed, they deal hy far a sola, which farasola weighs about 
twenty-five of our lire} 

1 The names of these weights and measures, I am informed, are not 
Malayalim, though I think it highly probable that they are still used 
by the Arabs who frequent the Malabar coast. Buhdr is an Arabic 
word, indicating usually a weight of three hundred pounds. By some 
Arabian lexicographers it is supposed to be of Coptic origin, and Prinsep 
seems to regard it as a term " properly Hindu," a corruption either of 
bhdra or bdha. (See Lane's Arabic- English Lexicon, sub voce Buhdr, 
and Prinsep's Useful Tables, part i. p. 76. Calcutta, 1834.) Crawfurd 
says it is the only weight introduced into the Archipelago by the Arabs, 
and was in use even as far as the Moluccas when the Portuguese first 
arrived. (Descriptive Dictionary of the Indian Islands, sub voce Weights.) 
Hamilton mentions the " Bahaar" as a weight used in several parts of 
the East Indies in his time. Pinkerton's Voyages, vol. viii. p. 518. 

Curia stands undoubtedly for koraja, and Farasola is the plural of 
fdrsala, both words being still in ordinary use among the Arabs of the 
Red Sea and Persian Gulf ; but I am unable to verify their origin. The 
latter seems identical with ferrah, a corruption of parah, the name of an 
old Hindu weight, which is known throughout India, and used in mea- 
suring lime, etc. ; and the former may be derived from the Sanscrit 
kauri, a score. (Prinsep's Tables, id.) Koraja means twenty, and is 
applied to bales of hides, piece-goods, etc., containing that number. It 
is written " Gorjes" in the bill of goods purchased at Mokha in 1612 by 
Captain John Saris from a native merchant of Surat, and Saris also 
enumerates it among-the weights and measures known at Java and other 
islands of the Indian Archipelago, e, g. " Taffata, in Boults, an hundred 
and twelve yards the Piece, forty-six Ryals of Eight the Oorj, or twenty 
Pieces." Greene's Collection of Voyages, vol. i. pp. 466, 504. 

The present weight of a fdrsala at Aden is 28 lbs. Hamilton, who 
calls it " Frasella," and places it among the Banyan Weights, reckoned 
it in his time at 29| lbs. avoirdupois ; and Niebuhr, who names it among 
the weights of Mokha, makes it 30 Uvres. See Pinkerton's Voyages, 
vol. viii. p. 518 ; Voyage en Arable, vol. iii. p. 192. 



The women of these two classes of people, that is, the 
Poliari and Hirava, suckle their children for about three 
months, and then they feed them upon cow's milk or goat's 
milk. And when they have crammed them, without wash- 
ing either their faces or their bodies, they throw them into 
the sand, in which they remain covered up from the morn- 
ing until the evening, and as they are more black than any 
other colour, they cannot be distinguished from little buf- 
falos or little bears ; so that they appear misshapen things, 
and it seems as though they were fed by the devil. Their 
mothers give them food again in the evening. These people 
are the most agile leapers and runners in the world. 1 I 

1 See note on p. 142 ante. That this is not an exaggerated picture of 
the mode in which the offspring of these wretched outcasts are nurtured, 
may be fairly inferred from the following description of the class which 
they compose : — " The creatures in human form, who constitute the 
number of 100,000, the agrestic slave population of Malabar, are dis- 
tinguishable, like the savage tribes still to be found in some of the forests 
in India, from the rest of the human race by their degraded, diminutive, 
squalid appearance, their dropsical pot-bellies contrasting horribly with 
their skeleton arms and legs, half-starved, hardly clothed children, and in a 
condition scarcely superior to the cattle that they follow at the plough." 
(Thornton's Gazetteer, sub voce Malabar.) Buchanan says : " The only 
means they employ to procure a subsistence is by watching the crops, 
to drive away wild hogs and birds. Hunters also employ them to rouse 
game ; and the A chumars, who hunt by profession, give them one-fourth 
part of what they kill. They gather a few wild roots, but can neither 
catch fish, nor any kind of game. They sometimes procure a tortoise, 
and are able, by means of hooks, to kill a crocodile. Both these am- 
phibious animals they reckon delicious food. All these resources, how- 
ever, are inadequate to their support, and they subsist chiefly by begging. 
They have scarcely any clothing, and every thing about them discloses 
want and misery. They have some wretched huts built under trees in 
remote places; but they generally wander about in companies of ten or 
twelve persons, keeping at a little distance from the road ; and when 
they see any passenger they set up a howl, like so many hungry dogs." 


think I ought not to omit explaining to you the many kinds 
of animals and birds which are found in Calicut, and espe- 
cially about the lions, wild hogs, goats, wolves, kine, buf- 
falos, goats, and elephants (which, however, are not pro- 
duced here, but come from other places), 1 great numbers of 
wild peacocks, and green parrots in immense quantities ; also 
a kind of red parrot. And there are so many of these 
parrots, that it is necessary to watch the rice in order that 
the said birds may not eat it. One of these parrots is worth 
four quatlriniy and they sing extremely well. I also saw 
here another kind of bird, which is called saru. 2 They sing- 
better than the parrots, but are smaller. There are many 
other kinds of birds here different from ours. I must inform 
you, that during one hour in the morning and one hour in 
the evening there is no pleasure in the world equal to that 
of listening to the song of these birds, so much so that it is 
like being in paradise, in consequence of there being such 
a multitude of trees and perpetual verdure, which arises 
from the circumstance that cold is unknown here, neither is 
there excessive heat. In this country a great number of 
apes are produced, one of which is worth four casse, and 
one casse is worth a quatlrino They do immense damage 
to those poor men who make wine. 3 These apes mount on 
the top of those nuts and drink that same liquor, and then 

Hamilton's account is somewhat different. He says : " they are cunning 
in catching wild beasts and birds ;" and strikingly corroborates Var- 
thema by remarking that " they are very swift in running." Pinker- 
ton's Voyages, vol. viii. pp. 375-6, 739. 

1 Wild elephants, inferior in size to none in India, exist in the jungles 
and forests of Malabar. Varthema probably meant that they were not 
bred in the immediate vicinity of Calicut. All the other quadrupeds 
and birds which he enumerates, and a great many besides, abound in the 

2 Saru is probably from the Persian sar, a starling. Shakespeare, 
however, gives saro as an Hindostani name for that bird. He seems, 
moreover, to make it identical with the maind {Gracula relujiosa). 

3 That is, cocoa-nut wine, or toddy. 


they overturn the vessel and throw away all the liquor they 
cannot drink. 


There is found in this Calicut a kind of serpent which is 
as large as a great pig, and which has a head much larger 
than that of a pig, and it has four feet, and is four 
braza long. 1 These serpents are produced in certain 
marshes. The people of the country say that they have no 
venom, but that they are evil animals, and do injury to 
people by means of their teeth. Three other kinds of ser- 
pents are found here which, if* they strike a person a little, 
that is, drawing blood, he immediately falls to the ground 
dead. And it has often happened here in my time that 
there have been many persons struck by these animals, of 
which animals there are three kinds. The first resemble 
deaf adders ; the'next are scorpions ; the third are thrice as 
large as scorpions. Of these three kinds there are immense 
numbers. And you must know that when the king of 
Calicut learns where the nest of any of these brutal animals 
is, he has made over it a little house, on account of the 
water. 2 And if any person should kill one of these animals 

1 Crocodiles, the animals here indicated, swarm in the rivers of Mala- 
bar. " Of other reptiles, there are the skink, a large lizard about four 
feet long, the salamander, tortoise, snakes of various kinds, as the cobra 
de capello, the bite of which results in inevitable death, and many other 
venomous kinds, as also the boa constrictor, generally swept down by 
torrents from the jungly valleys of the Ghats." Thoknton's Gazetteer, 
sub voce Malabar. 

- I visited one of these retreats for serpents at Kolapore in the South- 
ern Mahratta country, and witnessed them feasting on milk which had 
been prepared for them by the guardians of the shrine ; nevertheless, on 
two different occasions I have seen Hindus join heartily in killing a 
cobra de capello. 

Baldteus, speaking of the cobras at Negapatam, soys : ; ' They are iu 


the king would immediately put him to death. In like 
manner, if any one kill a cow, he would also put that person 
to death. They say that these serpents are spirits of God, 
and that if they were not his spirits, God' would not have 
given them such a power, that biting a person a little he 
would immediately fall dead. And it is from this circum- 
stance that there are such numbers of these animals who 
know the Pagans and do not avoid them. In my time one 
of these serpents entered into a house during the night and 
bit nine persons, and in the morning they were all found 
dead and swollen. And when the said Pagans go on a 
journey, if they meet any of these animals they receive it as 
a good augury. 


In the house of the king of Calicut there. are many cham- 
bers, in which as soon as evening comes they have ten or 
twelve vases made in the form of a fountain, which are com- 
posed of cast metal, and are as high as a man. Each of 
these vases has three hollow places for holding oil, about 
two spans high from the ground. And, first, there is a vase in 
which is oil with cotton wicks lighted all round. And 
above this there is another vase more narrow, but with the 
same kind of lights, and on the top of the second vase there 
stands another yet smaller, but with oil and lights ignited. 
The foot of this vase is formed in a triangle, and on each of 
the faces of the foot there are three devils in relief, and they 
are very fearful to behold. These are the squires who hold 

such reverence among these Pagans, that if they should happen to kill 
one of them, they will look upon it as an expiable [inexpiable ?] crime, 
and to forbode some great misfortune." Churchill's Collection, vol. 
iii. p. G51. 


the lights before the king. This king also makes use of 
another custom. When one of his relations dies, as soon as 
the year of mourning is accomplished, he sends an invita- 
tion to all the principal Brahmins who are in his own king- 
dom, and he also invites some from other countries. And 
when they are arrived, they make great feastings for three 
days. Their food consists of rice dressed in various ways, 
the flesh of wild hogs, and a great deal of venison, for they 
are great hunters. At the end of the three days, the said 
king gives to each of the principal Brahmins three, four, and 
five par clai, and then everyone returns to his house. And 
all the people of the kingdom of the king shave their beards 
for joy. 




Near to Calicut there is a temple in the midst of a tank, 
that is, in the midst of a pond of water : which temple is 
made in antique style with two rows of columns, like San 
Giovanni in Fonte at Rome. 1 In the middle of that temple 

1 This was probably the temple which De Gama and his companions 
visited on their way from Padarane to Calicut about six years previously, 
and where some of them, wittingly or unwittingly, took part in the 
heathen services. " The temple was as large as a great monastery. It 
was built of freestone, and covered with tiles. Over the front door there 
hung seven balls ; and before it stood a pillar as high as the mast of a 
ship, made of wire, with a weathercock of the same at top. Within, it 
was full of images : this made De Gama and the rest take it for a Chris- 
tian church. Entering it, they were met by certain men, naked from 
the waist upwards, and from thence to the knees covered with calico. 
They wore pieces of calico also under the armpits, with certain threads, 
which were hung over their left shoulder, and passed under the right arm, 
just as the Romish priests used to wear their stoles formerly. These 
men, with a sponge dipped in a fountain, sprinkled their visitants ; and 
then gave each of them some Sanders [sandal-wood] pulverized to strew 


there is an altar, made of stone, where sacrifices are per- 
formed. And between each of the columns of the lower 
circle there stand some little ships made of stone, which are 
two paces long, and are full of a certain oil,- which is called 
Enna. 1 Around the margin of the said tank there is an im- 
mense number of trees all of one kind, on which trees there 
are lights so numerous that it would be impossible to count 
them. And in like manner around the said temple there are 
oil lights in the greatest abundance. When the 25th day of 
the month of December arrives, all the people for fifteen 
days' journey around, that is to say, the Naeri and Brahmins, 
come to this sacrifice. And before performing the said 
sacrifice, they all wash in the said tank. Then the principal 
Brahmins of the king mount astride of the little vessels 
above-mentioned where the oil is, and all these people come 
to the said Brahmins, who anoint the head of each of them 
with that oil, and then they perform the sacrifice on that 
altar before-mentioned. At the end of one side of this altar 
there is a very large Sathanas, which they all go to worship, 
and then each returns on his way. At this season the land 
is free and frank for three days, that is, they cannot exercise 

upon their heads, (as the Papists do ashes,) and on their arms. The 
Portuguese did one, but not the other, because their clothes were on. 
On the walls of the temple were many images painted, some with great- 
teeth sticking above an inch out of their mouth ; others with four arms, 
and such frightful faces that the Portuguese began to doubt whether it 
was a Christian church or not. Upon the top of the chapel, which stood 
in the middle of the temple, was a fort, or freestone tower, with a little 
wire door, and stone stairs on the outside. Id the wall of this tower 
was an image, on sight whereof the Malabars called out ' Mary !' [Pro- 
bably some native word of similar sound forbidding the strangers to 
approach any nearer, or inviting them to worship.] Whereupon De 
Gama and the rest, taking it for an image of the Virgin, fell on their 
knees and prayed. Only one, Juan de Sala, who had some doubt of the 
matter, in making his genuflexions, said : ' If this be the devil, I worship 
God ;' which made De Gama smile." Gkeene's Collection, vol. i. p. 51. 
1 Probably from Neh, one of the Sanscrit names for oil, with the 
Arabic article el- or en- prefixed. 


vengeance one against another. In truth, I never saw so 
many people together at one time, excepting when I was at 
Mecca. 1 It appears to me that I have sufficiently explained 
to you the customs and manner of living, the religion and 
the sacrifices, of Calicut. Wherefore departing thence, I 
will recount to you step by step the rest of my journey, 
together with all the events which happened to me in the 
course of it. 

1 I am unable to determine the precise festival here described, and 
which in the year of Varthema's visit (probably 1505) fell on the 25th 
of December. In many respects it resembles the festival at Bijayanagar, 
which was also of three days' duration, described in detail by 'Abd er- 
Razzak, and called by him " Mahanadi." (See India in the XVth Cen- 
tury, i. pp. 35-39.) Perhaps it was the Navardtra, or Hindu New Year ; 
but it would not be difficult for those skilled in comparative chronology 
to identify it. 



My companion, who was called Cogiazenor, 1 seeing that he 
could not sell his merchandize because Calicut was ruined 
by the king of Portugal, for the merchants who used to 
come there were not there, neither did they come. — And the 
reason why they did not come was that the [king of Calicut] 
consented that the Moors should kill forty-eight Portuguese, 
whom I saw put to death. And on this account the king of 
Portugal is always at war, and he has killed, and every day 
kills, great numbers. And therefore the said city is ruined, 
for in every way it is at war. 2 — And so we departed, and took 

1 This appears to be the same person that Vartheina picked up as a 
companion at Shiriiz. See p. 103 ante. 

2 Although Vasco de Gama's first reception by the Zamorin was friendly, 
the resident Muhammedans generally, and more especially the foreign 
Arabs, who possessed great influence at the court, and who seem to have 
feared a rivalry in their trade, did all in their power to thwart his views. 
In consequence of this opposition, De Gama left India without establishing 
commercial relations with Calicut. Two years later, Pedro Alvarez Cabral 
succeeded in settling a factory there, but the Mekkah merchants prevented 
their getting any cargoes, and instigated an attack on the factory, which 
was completely destroyed, and many Portuguese killed. In revenge for this 
outrage, Cabral bombarded the town, and in the course of the following 
year the Zamorin's fleet was defeated by Juan de Nueva. Between 
1502-3 De Gama again appeared before Calicut, and having seized fifty 
Malabarians at sea caused them to be hung on board his ships, and then 
ordered their amputated hands and feet to be sent on shore in a prau. 
After this, he cannonaded the place for several hours, demolishing many 
houses, and among them the Zamorin's palace. Then in 1505 Lope 


our road by a river, 1 which is the most beautiful I ever saw, 
and arrived at a city which is called Cacolon, distant from 

Soarez came to Calicut with a fleet of thirteen ships, on which occasion 
certain prisoners who had been taken in the former wars were delivered 
up to him ; but as some were detained, he battered the city for two days, 
ruining a great part of it, and killing three hundred of the inhabitants. 
Calculating that Varthema must have been at Calicut about this time, 
I think it highly probable that the forty-eight Portuguese whom he saw 
dead were the individuals who had not been surrendered to Soarez. (See 
Greene's Collection of Voyages, vol. i. pp. 29-57, whose account of the 
early voyages of the Portuguese to India is extracted from Castenheda, 
De Barros, and De Faria y Souza.) 

1 The maps, unfortunately, do not enable me to decide whether inland 
navigation is practicable to the southward beginning at Calicut, and 
Horsburgh is silent on that particular point ; but if the hydrography of 
Keith Johnston's Atlas is correct, there is a continuous water commu- 
nication, formed by the different rivers and estuaries, and running 
parallel with the coast, extending from Panane, (Thornton's Ponany, 
and Keith Johnston's Ponani,) twenty-eight miles south of Calicut, as 
far as Quilon, which is nearly two degrees to the southward of Panane. 
This fact would partially justify Varthema in saying that he proceeded 
on his journey from Calicut " by a river ;" but I am inclined to think 
that, with the exception, perhaps, of an occasional very brief run at sea, 
from one estuary to another, his statement, on a more thorough investi- 
gation than I have the means of giving it, will be verified in its entirety, 
especially as I find that Ibn Batuta appears to have travelled by the 
same route ; for he says : " I proceeded, therefore, [from Calicut] to that 
place [Kawlani=Quilon] by river. It is situated at a distance of ten 
days from Calicut ;" meaning, of course, that the river journey occupied 
that time. See Lee's Translation, p. 1 74. 

The following quotations illustrate the subject generally : — " Many of 
these rivers [of Malabar] during the monsoon have inland communica- 
tions, by which navigation is practicable, from stream to stream and 
estuary to estuary, in a direction parallel to the shore. Of these waters, 
the most remarkable is that of Chowgaut, a fine sheet on the south- 
eastern frontier towards Cochin, twenty miles in length and eight in 
breadth, having numerous islands, coves, and inlets, and characterized 
by Buchanan as ' one of the finest inland navigations imaginable.' " 
(Thornton.'s Gazetteer, sub voce Malabar.) Of the river of Cochin, 
which is forty-nine miles to the south of Panane or Ponani, Horsburgh 
says : " It may be considered as an arm of the sea, for it extends to the 
southward parallel to the line of coast, and a very little distant from it, 
communicating with Iviker inlet or river, which falls into the sea to the 


Calicut fifty leagues. 1 The king of this city is a pagan and 
is not very rich. The manner of living, the dress, and the 
customs, are after the manner of Calicut. Many merchants 
arrived here, because a great deal of pepper grows in this 
country, and in perfection. In this city we found some 
Christians of those of Saint Thomas, some of whom are 
merchants, and believe in Christ, as we do. These say that 
every three years a priest comes there to baptize them, and 
that he comes to them from Babylon. These Christians 
keep Lent longer than we do ; but they keep Easter like 
ourselves, and they all observe the same solemnities that we 
do. But they say mass like the Greeks. The names of 
whom are four, that is to say, John, James, Matthew, and 
Thomas. 2 The country, the air, and the situation, resemble 

northward of Quilon, forming islands by the various inlets." {Directory, 
vol. i p. 506.) These salt-water inlets, and the estuaries communicating 
with them, form what is technically called by seamen the Backwater of 

The foregoing extract from Horsburgh convinces me that Porca or 
Parrakad, which lies between Cochin and Quilon, is sometimes, if not 
always, insulated by the rivers and estuaries in its neighbourhood. Var- 
thema is therefore justified in calling that place an island. See p. 154, 
and note 2. 

1 I have looked in vain for this place in Thornton's Gazetteer. It is 
written Kayan Kulam in Keith Johnston's Atlas, but the same desig- 
nation is incorrectly given to Quilon also. The two places are distinct, 
and appear always to have had distinct names. Barbosa, a few years 
after Varthema, says : " After passing the aforesaid place [Porca,] the 
kingdom of Coulan commences, and the rirst place is called Caincoulan, 
inhabited by many Gentiles, Moors, and Christians of the doctrine of 
Saint Thomas, many of whom, in the interior, live among the Gentiles. 
Much pepper grows in this place, with which many vessels are loaded." 
(Ramusio, vol. i. p. 312.) Bakheus, nearly a century and a half later, 
describes Kayan Kulam thus : — "The next adjoining kingdom [to Percatti 
or Porca] is Calecoidany, of no great extent. Here the Dutch had a 
factory." (Cuurciiill's Collection of Voyayes, vol. iii. p. 643.) Hamilton, 
who writes it Coilcoloan, says it is " a little principality contiguous to 
Porkah." (Pinkerton's Voyages, vol. viii. p. 383.) The two last men- 
tioned authors mention Quilou also, the former calling it Coulang, and 
the latter Coiloan. 

2 Varthema would have bceu more correct if he had merely adduced 


those of Calicut. At the end of three days we departed 

the above names as examples of those borne by these Christians ; but 
that may be his meaning. 

It is difficult to decide, from the imperfect and prejudiced accounts of 
the early Portuguese, to what rite these Christians belonged at this 
period, or whether they belonged to more rites than one. Var- 
thema's notice of them is very brief, and what he does say would apply 
equally either to the Syrian Jacobite or to the Nestorian community, 
with the exception of his remark about Babylon, which, if reliable, (and 
he was less likely to err in the name of a place than in the definition of 
a doctrine,) undoubtedly connects the Christians whom he met at Caco- 
lon with the latter. Catholic or Patriarch of Babylon is the vague title 
which has been applied to the Primate of the Nestorians while located 
successively at the royal seats of Seleucia, Ctesiphon, and Baghdad, and 
at the time referred to, the Nestorian patriarchate was established at 
Baghdad, whereas the Jacobite Patriarch resided theu, as he does still, 
at Mardin in Mesopotamia. Be that as it may, at the present day the 
Christians of Malabar, as they are generally called, are divided into two 
distinct communities, one nominally subject to the spiritual primacy of 
the Chaldean Patriarch at Mosul, {Chaldeans is the name assumed 
by the Nestorians in Turkey and Persia who have submitted to the 
Church of Rome,) and the other recognizing the Syrian Jacobite 
Patriarch at Mardin. On the demise of the Malabar bishop of the latter 
body, a successor, in the person of a native priest, was sent to Mardin, 
where he was consecrated to the episcopate under the name of Mar 
Athanasius ; but on returning to India the validity of his priesthood was 
questioned by some of the community, who asserted that he had been 
ordained by the laying-on of the bishop's hands after the death of the 
latter. This and some other objections induced the Jacobite Patriarch 
to send one Bishop Kirillos (Cyril,) a native of Mesopotamia, to Malabar, 
which gave rise to new contentions among the Jacobites of that country, 
who, from all the accounts that have reached me, appear to be involved 
in an uninterrupted succession of ecclesiastical squabbles. 

The Malabar Christians who composed the Nestorian section have as a 
body conformed to Rome, preserving, however, their own Syriac rituals, 
and such other ecclesiastical customs and observances, of eastern origin, 
as were not considered heterodox by the Latin Church. At what precise 
period they ceased their connexion with the Nestorian Patriarchate at 
Baghdad is uncertain. Efforts were certainly made by Roman mis- 
sionaries as early as the fourteenth century to induce the Malabar 
Christians generally to abjure their alleged schism, and some valuable 
notices of their proceedings at that epoch will be found in Colonel 
Yule's Preface to his translation of the Mirabilia Descripta, written by 
Friar Jordanus, who was Bishop of Columlmm (Quilon) circa A.D. 1330; 


from this place, and went to another city called Colon, 1 dis- 
tant from that above mentioned twenty miles. The king of 
this city is a Pagan, and extremely powerful, and he has 
20,000 horsemen, and many archers, and is constantly at war 

but it seems most probable that the separation was not consummated 
prior to the settlement of the Portuguese in India, through whose instru- 
mentality the Nestorians were brought into communion with the See of 
Home, when, of course, their relations with the Patriarch at Baghdad 
ceased, and their priests received ordination through the Latin bishops 
located in the country. Recently, however, they appear to have become 
dissatisfied with that arrangement, and decided to have a bisho}) of their 
own. Accordingly, about four years ago, they deputed twelve of their 
number, several of whom had been ordained to the minor orders, to Mar 
Yusuf, the Chaldean Patriarch at Mosul, desiring that one of them 
should be raised to the Episcopate. Mar Yusuf, acting on instructions 
from Rome, declined to comply with this very natural retpiest, and per- 
sisted in his refusal notwithstanding the urgent solicitations of the 
Chaldeans in favour of the Malabariaus. Resolved not to be frustrated, 
the latter proceeded from Mosul to Mar Shimon, the Nestorian Pa- 
triarch residing at Julamerk in Kurdistan, who readily consecrated the 
episcopal candidate ; whereupon the deputation returned to India. It 
remains to be seen what will be the result of this step as regards the 
native Christian community in Malabar. 

1 The modern town of Quilon, " situated in the native state of Tra- 
vancore, on the seacoast, in a bight where ships may anchor under 
shelter at about two and a half or three miles from the fort... The vege- 
table productions are timber, cocoa-nuts, pepper, cardamums, ginger, 
betel-nuts, and coffee. The population is stated to be about 20,000." 
(See Thornton's Gazetteer, whose account of the place is very meagre.) 
Quilon, under different modifications of that name, is mentioned by the 
earliest Arabian and European travellers to India, and appears to have 
been a considerable mart in those days. It is unquestionably the 
Kaukammali of the Two Muhammedan travellers of the ninth century, 
who describe it as the first place which vessels touch at proceeding to 
India from Maskat, and a month's sail from that port with a fair wind. 
(Pinkerton, vol. vii. p. 185.) Any doubt which may arise on this point 
from the difference in the name is removed by Lee's note on Ibn 
Ratiita's Kdwlam, wherein he says : " In our MS., as well as in that of 
Mr. Apetz, it often appears thus: Kawkam." (p. 169.) El-Edrisi also 
mentions Kawlam Meli, in the viith. Chapter of the 2nd. Climate ; but 
erroneously places it, I think, top far north. (Viucent attempts to re- 
concile the difference between Kdwlcam and Kawlam by supposing the 
translator to have beeu misled by the want of diacritical points in the 


with other kings. This country has a good port near to the 
sea-coast. No grain grows here, but fruits, as at Calicut, 

original, which was certainly not the case in this instance, for neither 
word in Arabic has any such points ; but he very judiciously recognises 
in the suffix Mali a reference to 3IaU, or Malabar. {Com. and Nav. of 
the Ancients, vol. ii. p. 477.) I arn very much disposed, however, after 
a careful analysis of the original, to regard El-Edrisi's viiith. Chapter 
as, in part, a recapitulation of the viith., and to identify another place 
mentioned in the latter, or rather the same place under the name of 
Kalkiyan, which he locates six days from Fandaraina (see note on 
p. 113 ante,) and six or seven days from Serindib (Ceylon,) and de- 
scribes as growing much brazil-wood, with the town of Quilon. 

That Quilon is identical with Marco Polo's Coulam is obvious from 
his description of the people and productions of the latter place. He 
says : " Here, among the idolaters, dwell Jews and Christians, who have 
a language of their own. The produce are pepper, brazil, indigo, black 
lions, and white parrots of divers sorts... They are very libidinous, and 
marry their sisters." (Gkeene's Collection, vol. iv. p. G16.) His state- 
ment that Coulam is situated five hundred miles north-west from Mala- 
bar (in Pinherton it is south-west !) may be an error ; but whether it is 
so or not depends on the limits which he allows to that country. It is 
clear that he extended them as far as Cape Comorin on the south, and 
carried them a considerable distance up the coast trending to the north- 
east, for he writes : — " Sailing sixty miles west from Zeilan (Ceylon) is 
the great province of Maabar...In this kingdom is a pearl-fishery be- 
tween the coast of Zeilan, in a bay where is not twelve fathom water," 
{Id. p. 614,) which was probably Tuticorin. Now, that district which 
Marco Polo thus includes within " the great province of Maabar," Bar- 
bosa in the sixteenth century comprehends within the kingdom of Cou- 
lam, the boundaries of which he prolongs still further in the same 
direction : — " Leaving this island of Zailan, and returning to the conti- 
nent where it bends by Cape Cumeri, we come at once upon the country 
of the king of Coulam, and of other kings who are subject to him and 
reside therein, which is called Quilicare" [Killakarai.] And, again : — 
" After passing the province of Quilacare, onward by the coast, towards 
the north-east wind, there is another town called Cael, also belonging to 
the king of Coulam.'''' (Ramesio, vol. i. p. 313.) From which it is evi- 
dent that the Malabar of these writers comprehended, at least, the entire 
line of coast between Cape Comorin and the Palk Strait, and although 
that distance is scarcely more than half the five hundred miles which 
Marco Polo places between Quilon and Malabar, it is, nevertheless, quite 
as near a guess as his saying that Maabar is only " sixty miles west from 
Zeilan." Vincent comes to a similar conclusion, though I do not per- 


and pepper in great quantities. The colour of this people, 
their dress, manner of living, and customs, are the same as 
at Calicut. At that time, the king of this city was the friend 
of the king of Portugal, but being at war with others, it did 
not appear to us well to remain here. Wherefore, we took 
our way by sea, aforesaid, and went to a city which is called 
Chayl, 1 belonging to the same king, opposite from Colon fifty 

ceive on what ground he draws a distinction between Mahabar and 
Malabar. He says : " The Mahabar of Marco Polo is written Malabar 
by some of his translators ; but his Mahabar is the Coast of Corornan- 
del." (Periplus, vol. ii. p. 520 n.) And the same terminology appears 
to have obtained at a much later date, for Hamilton writes: — "Having 
thus run along the seacoast of Malabar from Decully to Negapatam," 
etc., thereby giving to Malabar an extension of nearly six hundred miles. 
Pinkerton, vol. viii. p. 389. 

The following is Barbosa's account of Quilon : — " Proceeding onward 
[from Caincoulan] by the same coast towards the south, there is another 
principal seaport, with a town which is called Coulam, where many 
Moors, Pagans, and Christians reside, who are great merchants, and owu 
many ships with which they traffic with the country of Coromandel, the 
island of Zeilan, Bengala, Malacha, Sumatra, and Pegu ; but these do 
not trade with Cambaia. Here much pepper is grown. The king is a 
Pagan, and a great lord over an extensive territory, is very rich, and has 
many warriors who for the most part are expert archers." Ramusio, 
vol. i, p. 312. 

The Portuguese were well received at Coulan on their first arrival in 
India, and Albuquerque settled a factory there in 1503. Its political 
and commercial importance seem to have greatly declined during the 
succeeding century and a half, for Baldteus, who styles it Coulang, de- 
scribes it as the least ajnong the Malabar kingdoms, (see Churchill's 
Collection of Voyages, vol. iii. p. 643 ;) and Hamilton, in whose time it 
was still in the hands of the Dutch, and who writes it Coiloan, calls it a 
small principality, and says that its trade was inconsiderable. See Pin- 
kerton, vol. viii. p. 383. 

1 This name has also disappeared from the maps, but collating Bar- 
bosa with Varthema, I conclude that it is identical with Hamilton's 
" Coil," which he places to the north-east of Tutecareen on the " pro- 
montory that sends over a reef of rocks to the island of Zeilan, called 
commonly Adam's Bridge." (Pinkerton, vol. viii. p. 384.) Tuticorin, 
formerly famous for its pearl-fisheiy, is ninety miles nearly due east of 
Quilon, and was probably the spot where our traveller witnessed the 
fishing for pearls while on the voyage to Chayl, and which he loosely 


miles. We saw those pearls fished for [here] in the sea, in the 
same manner as I have already described to you in Ormus. 

located at a distance of fifty miles opposite to Colon.''' 1 Chayl seems, more- 
over, to be identical with Marco Polo's Cael or Kael, which he mentions 
before enumerating Coulam and other regions to the westward, and 
describes as "a great city, governed by Astiar...who is very rich, and 
uses merchants kindly." (Greene, vol. iv. p. 616.) Barbosa's account 
of it is as follows : — " After passing the province of Quilacare, \Killa- 
karai of Keith Johnston's Atlas,] onward by the coast, towards the north- 
east wind, there is another city called Cael, belonging to the king of 
Coulam, inhabited by Pagans and Moors, who are great merchants, and 
there is a seaport where many ships from Malabar, Coromandel and 
Bengala come every year. Here traffic is carried on by all sorts of mer- 
chants from every quarter. The people of this city are expert jewellers, 
who trade in small pearls, for here great quantities thereof are taken ; 
and this fishery belongs to the king of Coulam, and for many years past 
has been farmed to a very rich Moorish merchant." Ramusio, vol. i. 
p. 313. 

I am surprised that Dr. Vincent, who was well acquainted with 
Ramusio's Collection, has made no reference to this Cael or Coil in his 
identification of the Kolkhi of the author of the Periplus with the Rom, 
and Calligicum of Ptolemy and the Kalis of Dionysius, as the existence 
of a town of that name, and in the locality occupied by Cael, seems to 
supply the only desideratum for removing the doubt which attaches to 
his deductions. I quote his argument in full, leaving the reader to form 
his own judgment on my suggestion : — " Ptolemy has still another par- 
ticular which is very remarkable ; for as he places the northern point 
of his Taprobane opposite to a promontory named Koru, so he has an 
island Koru between the two, and a Tala-Cori on Ceylon ; and Kory, he 
says, is the same as Calligicum... The expedition of Ram to Ceylon, and 
his victory over Rhavan or Rhaban, king of that island, is one of the 
wildest fables of Hindoo mythology, but he passed into the island at the 
strait, since called, by the Mohamedans, Adam's Bridge. The whole 
country round, in consequence of this, preserves the memorial of his 
conquest. There is a Ramanad-buram on the continent close to the 
bridge ; a Rami-Ceram, or country of Ram, the island close to the con- 
tinent ; [Rameswaram, called Rammanana Kojel by Baldreus, and Ra- 
monan Coil by D'Anville ;] and a Point Rama on the continent. The 
bridge itself, formed by the shoals between Rami-ceram and Manaar, is 
Rama's Bridge ; and in Rami-ceram is Raman-Koil, the temple of Ram. 
This Koil or temple [Koil means a temple in Malayalim] is undoubtedly 
the origin of Koru ; and the repetition of it three times in Ptolemy is in 
perfect correspondence with the various allusions to Ram at the present 




Wc then passed further onwards, and arrived at a city 
which is called Cioromandel, 1 which is a marine district, and 

day. Roru is likewise written Kolis by Dionysius, and the natives called 
Koniaki, Koliki, and Koliaki, by different writers. This fluctuation of 
orthography will naturally suggest a connection with the Kolkhi of 
Ptolemy and the Periplus, which both of them make the seat of the 
Pearl Fishery ; and if Sosikoor5 be Tuta-corin, as D'Anville supposes, 
the relation of Kolkhi to that place will lead us naturally to the vicinity 
of Ramana-Koil ; for Tuta-corin was the point where the Dutch pre- 
sided over the fishery while it was in their hands, and maintains the 
same privilege now under the power of the English. But Koil, whether 
we consider it, with Ptolemy, as the point of the continent, or seek for 
it on the island of Ramiseram, is so near, and so intimately connected 
with Manaar, the principal seat of the fishery, that there can be little 
hesitation in assigning it to the Kolkhi of the ancients. Whether there 
be now a town of consequence either on the continent or on the island, 
I am not informed ; but that Koil, and Kolis, and Kolkhi, and Kalli- 
gicum, (for Kalligicum, Salmasius reads K<i>Aio.k6v,) are related, I have 
no doubt." Commerce and Navigation of the Ancients, vol. ii. pp. 501- 

1 I am not aware that a city so called has ever existed on the coast 
referred to, and am therefore led to conclude that in this instance, as in 
the case of Bijapur which Varthema styled " Decan," he gives to one of 
the principal towns the name of the district in which it was located. The 
alleged vicinity of St. Thomas's tomb points to the neighbourhood of 
Maliapur ; but as that position is irreconcileable with the other indica- 
tions supplied, I am inclined to infer either that our author was mis- 
informed in that particular, or that an error in the numerals record- 
ing the distance has crept into the existing versions of his travels. 
His " Cioromandel" I take to be Negapatam, " a town on the western 
coast of the Bay of Bengal. Here is a diminutive estuary of the Cau- 
very, capable of receiving small coasting-vessels, which carry on a con- 
siderable trade... The inhabitants have also considerable traffic with 
Ceylon, and the lands and islands lying eastward." (Thornton's Ga- 
zetteer.) It appears to have been the principal town on that part of the 
coast, for Ralph Fitch nearly a century after Varthema does not men- 
tion the name of Coromandel, but describes it as " the mainland of 
Negapatan." (Pinkeuton, vol. ix. p. 424.) Its situation about three 
hundred miles, by the coast, from Quilon would make the interval be- 


distant from Colon seven clays' journey by sea, more or less, 
according to the wind. This city is very large, and is not 
surrounded by walls, and is subject to the king of Narsinga. 
The said city is situated opposite to the island of Zeilon, 
when you have passed the Cape of Cumerin. In this district 
they gather a great quantity of rice, and it is the route to 
very large countries. There are many Moorish merchants 
here who go and come for their merchandize. No spices of 
any description grow here, but plenty of fruits, as at Calicut. 
1 found some Christians in this district who told me that the 
body of St. Thomas was twelve miles distant from that place, 
and that it was under the guard of some Christians. They 
also told me that Christians could not live in that country 
after the king of Portugal had come there, because the said 
king had put to death many Moors of that country, which 
trembled throughout from fear of the Portuguese. And, 
therefore, the said poor Christians cannot live here any 
longer, but are driven away and killed secretly, in order 
that it may not come to the ears of the king of Narsinga, 
who is a very great friend of the Christians, and especially 
of the Portuguese. One of these Christians also told me a 
very great miracle which his priest had told him, that forty- 
five years ago the Moors had a dispute with the Christians, 
and there were wounded on both sides ; but one Christian, 
among the rest, was much wounded in the arm, and he went 
to the tomb of St. Thomas and touched the tomb of St. 
Thomas with that wounded arm, and immediately he was 

tween the two places a seven days' voyage " more or less, according to 
the wind ;" and the actual distance which separates it from the nearest 
point of Ceylon being one degree of latitude, conresponds approximately 
with the twelve or fifteen leagues which Varthema subsequently places 
between his C ioromandel and that island. The shoals and rocks in the 
Palk Strait render navigation difficult at all times, and his notice of 
them as endangering the passage from the mainland is an additional 
argument in favour of the foregoing identification, proving, at least, 
that his Ciororaandel was to the northward of Calimere Point. 


cured. 1 And that from that time henceforward, the king of 
Narsinga has always wished well to the Christians. My 
companion disposed of some of his merchandize here, and 
inasmuch as they were at war with the king of Tarnassari 
we remained here only a few days, and then we took a ship 
with some other merchants, which ships are called Ciampane~ 
for they are flat-bottomed, and require little water and carry 
much goods. We passed a gulf of twelve or fifteen leagues 
where we had incurred great peril because there are many 
shoals and rocks there ; however, we arrived at an island 
called Zailon, 3 which is about 1000 miles in circumference, 
according to the report of the inhabitants thereof. 


In this island of Zailon there are four kings, 4 all Pagans. 

1 A very insignificant miracle compared with many others attributed 
to the sepulchre of St. Thomas. Barbosa piously records a tradition 
that the right arm of the Apostle protruded from his tomb at Maliapur, 
and for a long time resisted every attempt to cover it. 

2 Sampan, the common name for a canoe or skiff in Malay and 

3 Ceylon. Our traveller's informants were better acquainted with the 
extent of the island than Marco Polo, who made it 2,400 miles in circuit, 
and says that " anciently it was 3,600 miles, as is seen in the maps of 
the mariners of those -places ; but the north winds have made a great 
part of it sea." (Pinkerton, vii. p. 161.) Nicold de' Conti estimated 
its circumference at 3,000 miles. " The extreme length of the island is 
about 270 miles ; its breadth varies greatly, but the average is about 
100 miles." Thornton's Gazetteer. 

From the description which Varthema gives of the locality, — the large 
river, the adjacent mountains, and the cinnamon cultivation, — I con- 
clude that he landed at Colombo on the western coast ; for it is by no 
means a necessary inference that because he mentions the width of the 
passage between the mainland and the island that the voyage was 
limited to that extent. 

4 Marco Polo gives the same number of kings in his time. Varthema's 
brief description of the political condition of the island at the period of 


I do not describe to you all the things of the said island, be- 
cause these kings being in fierce war with each other, we 
could not remain there long, neither could we see or hear 
the things thereof; however, having remained there some 
few days, we saw that which you shall hear. And first, an 
immense quantity of elephants which are produced there. 1 

his visit is fully confirmed by Sir J. E. Tennent. Writing of a.d. 1505, 
he says : " The seaports on all parts of the coast were virtually in the 
hands of the Moors : the north was in the possession of the Malabars, 
whose seat of government was at Jaffna-patam ; and the great central 
region, (since known as the Wanny,) and Neuera-kalawa, were formed 
into petty chiefships, each governed by a Wanniya, calling himself a 
vassal, but virtually uncontrolled by any paramount authority. In the 
south the nominal sovereign Dharma Prakrama Bahu IX. had his capital 
at Cotta, near Colombo, whilst minor kings held mimic courts at Ba- 
dulla, Gampola, Peradenia, Kandy, and Mahagarn, and caused repeated 
commotions by their intrigues and insurrections. The rulers had long 
ceased to busy themselves with the endowment of temples, and the 
construction of works for irrigation ; so that already in the fourteenth 
century, Ceylon had become dependent upon India for supplies of food, 
and annually imported rice from the Dekkan." {Ceylon, vol. ii. p. 7.) 
The same author, in a note on the above passage from Varthema, re- 
marks : — " These conflicts and the actors in them are described in the 
Singhalese chronicle called the Rajavali." I could not find Upham's 
translation of that work in the British Museum ; but the following ex- 
tract from Knighton is, I presume, partly based on its authority : — "We 
have already explained that on the arrival of Almeida, Ceylon was di- 
vided into three distinct principalities, of which Dharma Pakrama- 
bahu IX., who then resided at Cotta was king of the larger and more 
important one, the other two being the territory of the Malabars in the 
north and the wild Veddahs on the north and east. Europeans have 
frequently been misled into the idea that the island was divided into a 
vast number of petty kingdoms, each independent of the other. Such, 
however, was not the case. Sub-kings, or, as we should call them, lieu- 
tenants, subject to the Emperor of Cotta, were appointed in many 
places, who frequently endeavoured to play upon western visitors, by 
representing themselves as independent princes." History of Ceylon, 
pp. 222-3. 

i " The elephant, the lord paramount of the Ceylon forests, is to be met 
with in every district, on the confines of the woods. ..In recent years there 
is reason to believe that their numbers have become considerably re- 
duced." Tennent's Ceylon, vol. i. p. 158. 


We also saw rubies found there, at a distance of two miles 
from the sea shore, where there is an extremely large and 
very long mountain, at the foot of which the said rubies are 
found. 1 And when a merchant wishes to find these jewels, 
he is obliged first to speak to the king and to purchase a 
braza of the said land in every direction, (which braza is 
called a molan,)~ and to purchase it for five ducats. And then 
when he digs the said land, a man always remains there on 
the part of the king. And if any jewel be found which ex- 
ceeds ten carats, the king claims it for himself, and leaves all 
the rest free. There is also produced near to the said moun- 
tain, where there is a very large river, 3 a great quantity of 
garnets, sapphires, jacinths, and topazes. 4 In this island there 
grow the best fruits I have ever seen, and especially certain 
artichokes (carzofoli) better than ours. 5 Sweet oranges, (me- 
langoli,) the best, I believe, in the world, and many other 
fruits like those of Calicut, but much superior. 

1 " The extent to which gems are still found is sufficient to account 
for the early traditions of their splendour and profusion, and fabulous 
as the story of the ruby of the Khandyan king may be, [which accord- 
ing to Marco Polo was a span in length, and without a flaw,] the abun- 
dance of gems in Safiragam has given the capital of the district the 
name of Itatnapoora, which means literally the City of Rubies. They 
arc not, however, confined to this quarter alone, but quantities are still 
found on the western plains, between Adam's Peak and the sea." /(/. 
p. 33. 

- Perhaps for Ammonan, which according to Pridham was equal to 
2 acres, 2 square roods, 37i square inches. Ceylon and its Dependencies, 
vol. ii. p. 853. 

3 This was most probably the Kalane-ganga, which Pridham describes 
as " the chief river of the island in importance. ..It is formed by the 
union of several torrents which have their source in the western division 
of the mountainous range of Saffragam, connected with Adam's Peak... 
It debouches at Modera, about four miles to the north of the fort 
of Colombo." {Id. p. G35.) The river is navigable for a considerable 
distance from its mouth. 

4 These and many other precious stones are enumerated and described 
in Tennent's Ceylon, vol. i. pp. 33-38. 

5 Probably the Custard Apple, which in outer form is not unlike an 



The tree of the Canella is the same as the laurel, especi- 
ally the leaves; and it produces some berries like the laurel, 
but they are smaller and more white. The said Canella, or 
Cinnamon, is the bark of the said tree, in this wise : Every 
three years they cut the branches of the said tree, and then 
take off the bark of them ; but they do not cut the stem on 
any account There are great numbers of these trees. When 
they collect that cinnamon it has not the excellence which it 
possesses a month afterwards. 1 A Moorish merchant told me 
that at the top of that very large mountain there is a cavern 
to which the men of that country go once in the year to pray, 
because, as they say, Adam was up there praying and doing 
penance, and that the impressions of his feet are seen to this 
day, and that they are about two spans long. 2 Rice does not 

1 If this is true, the cultivation and preparation of cinnamon must 
have been very backward in Varthema's time, as at present it appears to 
be gathered twice a-year. — " The best cinnamon is obtained from the 
twigs or shoots, which spring almost perpendicularly from the roots after 
the parent bush or tree has been cut down ; but great care is requisite 
both as to the exact size and age... The rods cut for peeling are of vari- 
rous sizes and lengths, depending on the texture of the bark : these are 
first peeled, then scraped on the outside, and while drying cut up into 
long narrow rolls called quills, then stuck into one another, so as to form 
pipes about three feet long, which are then made up in round bundles. 
There are two regular seasons for taking cinnamon, one from April to 
August, another from to November to January ; but considerable quan- 
tities are gathered at other times as the spice attains maturity." Prid- 
ham, Ceylon and its Dependencies, p. 387. 

2 " Adam's Peak is 7,420 feet above the level of the sea, and its sum- 
mit, of an elliptic form, 72 feet in length by 34 in breadth, is surrounded 
by a wall five feet high. Immediately within this, a level space of irre- 
gular breadth runs all the way round, and the centre is occupied by the 
apex of the mountain, a solid granite rock about nine feet high at the 
highest part. On this is the Sree Pada, or Sacred Footstep. Whether this 
much cherished memorial is rightfully attached to Saman by a prior claim 
(whence Samanala, Hamallel, or Samantakuta,) the Sree Pada is now 


grow in this country, but it comes there from the main land. 
The kings of this island are tributaries of the king of Nar- 
singa, on account of the rice which comes there from the 
main land. 1 The air in this island is extremely good, and 

held by the Buddhists to be a memorial of Gautama Buddha ; by the 
Mohammedans it is claimed for Adam, and called Baba-Aadamlai ; and 
the Malabars and other Hindoos maintain that it was Siva who left the 
impression of a monster footstep, and call it Sivanolipadam." Id., ii. 
p. 614-5. 

Sale has the following respecting the Mussulman tradition above al- 
luded to : — " The Mohamedans say, that when they were cast down from 
paradise, Adam fell on the island of Ceylon, or Serindib, and Eve near 
Juddah, the port of Mcccah, in Arabia ; and that after a separation of 
two hundred years, Adam was, on his repentance, conducted by the 
angel Gabriel to a mountain near Mekkah, where he found and knew his 
wife, the mountain being thence named Arafat ; and that he afterwards 
retired with her to Ceylon, where they continued to propagate their 

" It may not be improper here to mention another tradition concern- 
ing the gigantic stature of our first parents. Their prophet, they say, 
affirmed Adam to be as tall as a high palm-tree ; but this would be too 
much in proportion, if that were really the print of his foot, which is 
pretended to be such, on the top of a mountain in the isle of Ceylon, 
thence named Pico di Adam, and by the Arab writers RahAn, being 
somewhat about two spans long ; though others say it is seventy cubits 
long, and that when Adam set one foot here, he had the other in the 
sea ; — and too little, if Eve were of so enormous a size, that when her 
head lay on one hill near Meccah, her knees rested on two others in the 
plain, about two musket-shots asunder." Note on chapter ii. of the 

Ibn Batuta mentions " a cave known by the name of Ista Mahmud," 
also "a place called the seven caves," and again "the ridge of Alex- 
ander, in which is a cave and a well of water," on his pious pilgrimage 
to Adam's Foot, (Lee's Translation, p. 187-9 ;) but I find no mention of 
any locality corresponding with Varthema's "cavern" in the modern 
descriptions of the route up to the Peak. 

1 On this statement Sir J. E. Tennent remarks : — " There can be little 
doubt that it applied chiefly to the southern parts of the island, and 
that the north was still able to produce food sufficient for the wants of 
the inhabitants." Rice appears to have been extensively cultivated in 
many parts of Ceylon, but probably not in the maritime district visited 
by Varthcma. "The soil near the coast is light and sandy, but in the 
great central districts of Neuera-kalawa and the Wanny, there is found 


the people are of a dark tawny colour. And here it is 
neither too hot nor too cold. Their dress is alia apostolica ; 
they wear certain stuffs of cotton or silk, and go bare-footed. 
This island is placed under the equinoctial line, and the in- 
habitants of it are not very warlike. Artillery is not used 
here ; but they have some lances and swords, which lances 
are of cane, and with these they fight amongst each other ; 
but they do not kill each other over.much, because they are 
cowardly fellows. 1 Here there are roses and flowers of every 
kind, 2 and the people live longer than we do. Being in 
our ship one evening, a man came on the part of the king to 

in the midst of the forests a dark vegetable mould, in which in former 
times rice was abundantly grown by the aid of prodigious artificial 
works for irrigation, the ruins of which still form one of the wonders of 
the island. Even after centuries of neglect, the beds of many of these 
tanks cover areas of from ten to fifteen miles in circumference. They 
are now generally broken and decayed ; the waters which would fertilise 
a province are allowed to waste themselves in the sands, and hundreds 
of square miles capable of furnishing food for all the inhabitants of 
Ceylon are abandoned to solitude and malaria, whilst rice for the sup- 
port of the non-agricultural population is annually imported from the 
opposite coast of India." Ceylon, vol. i. pp. 27, 639. 

1 Fire-arms appear to have been unknown in Ceylon at this period. 
Referring to the introduction of them into the island by the Portuguese, 
Sir J. E. Tennent quotes the following passage from the Rajavali : — " And 
now it came to pass that in the Christian year 1522 [1507 ?], a ship from 
Portugal arrived at Colombo, and information was brought to the king, 
that there were in the harbour a race of very white and beautiful people 
who wear boots and shoes, and never stop in any place. They eat a sort 
of white stone, and drink blood ; and if they get a fish they give two or 
three ride in gold for it ; and, besides, they have guns with a noise like 
thunder, and a ball shot from one of them, after traversing a league, 
will break a castle of marble." {Ceylon, vol. i. p. 418.) Marco Polo 
says of the Singhalese : " the men are unfit for soldiers, and hire others 
when they have occasion." Pinkerton, vol. vii. p. 162. 

8 " The indigenous phamogamic plants described up to August 1856 
was 26, 700... When it is considered that this is nearly double the in- 
digenous flora of England, and little under one-thirtieth of the entire 
number of plants hitherto described over the world, the botanical rich- 
ness of Ceylon, in proportion to its area, must be regarded as equal to 
that of any portion of the globe." Tennent's Ceylon, vol. i. p. 83 n. 



my companion, and told him that he should carry to him his 
corals and saffron ; for he had a great quantity of both. A 
merchant of the said island, who was a Moor, hearing these 
words, said to him secretly : " Do not go to the king, for he 
will pay you for your goods after his own fashion." And 
this he said out of cunning, in order that my companion 
might go away, because he himself had the same kind of 
merchandize. However, answer was given to the message 
of the king, that on the following day he would go to his 
lord. And when morning came, he took a vessel and rowed 
over to the mainland. 



We arrived in the course of three days at a place which is 
called Palcachet, 1 which is subject to the king of Narsinga. 

1 Pulicat : " a town in the British district of Chingleput, about 
twenty-two miles north of Madras, situated on an extensive inlet of the 
sea, or salt water lake, of the same name. ..From one to two miles off 
shore is the road called Pulicat Anchorage, where there arc six or seven 
fathoms water." (Thouxton's Gazetteer.) Pulicat appears to have been 
a place of considerable trade at this period. Barbosa describes it a few 
years after Varthema as having a good port, which was frequented by 
"an infinite number" of Moorish vessels from all quarters. In his time 
it was governed by a-deputy appointed by the Narsinga, or Rajah of 
Bijayanagar, who appears to have retained possession of a great part of 
the sea-coast for more than half a century after the destruction of his 
capital by the confederate Mussulman kings of the Deccan in 1565 ; for 
in 1611, when Pulicat was visited by Captain Anthony Hippon, being 
the seventh voyage set forth by the East India Company, the administra- 
tion was in the hands of " the Governess Konda Maa, on the part of 
Wankapati Raja, king of Narsinga." (Greene's Collection, vol. i. p. 
436.) But the coast to the north of Pulicat, including Masulipatam, 
became tributary to Bijapur during the reign of Muhammed Shah 
Bhamani, about a.d. 1480, and formed subsequently a part of the king- 
dom of Golconda, including Telingana, which in Fitch's time, 1583-91, 
was ruled by " Cutub de Iashah," (Muhammed Kuli Kutb Shah,) who 


This district is one of immense traffic in merchandize, and 
especially in jewels, for they come here from Zailon and 
from Pego. There are also here many great Moorish mer- 
chants of all kinds of spices. We lodged in the house of a 
Moorish merchant, and we told him where we came from, 
and that we had many corals to sell, and saffron, and much 
figured velvet, and many knives. The said merchant, under- 
standing that we had this kind of merchandize, was greatly 
pleased. This country is most abundant in everything 
which is produced in India, but no grain grows there. They 
have rice here in great abundance. Their laws, manner of 
living, dress, and customs, are the same as at Calicut, and 
they are a warlike people, although they have no artillery. 
As this country was at fierce war with the king of Tarnassari, 
we could not remain here a very long time. But after re- 
maining here a few clays we took our route towards the city 
of Tarnassari, which is distant a thousand miles from here. 
At which city we arrived in fourteen days by sea. 

built Bhajnugger, which name he afterwards changed to Hydrabad. 
On his death, which occurred in 1586, there appears to have been a 
break in the Kutb-Shahi dynasty, for Abdallah Kutb Shah, who became 
tributary to the Emperor Shah Jehan, did not commence his reign till 
1611, and must have succeeded " Kotobara of Badaya or Lollongana 
[Bhajnugger or Telingana 1] and of Masulipatam," who, according to 
Floris's account, died on the 20th of January of that year while he was 
with Captain Hippon at the latter place. Abdallah Kutb Shah still 
reigned over Golconda and Telingana in 1639 (Mandelslo, p. 289,) but 
in 1672 it was incorporated into the empire of Arungzib. 

I infer from De Faria y Souza that the Portuguese established a colony 
at Pulicat as early as a.d. 1522, but I do not find the name in the list 
of their /oris on the Coromandel coast. They were succeeded in 1600 
by the Dutch, who built a fort there called Geldria, and made it their 
chief settlement after the loss of Negapatam. Pinkerton, vol. xi, p. 
203 n. 





The city of Tarnassari 1 is situated near to the sea : it is a 

1 Dr. Vincent, in his Dissertation on the Sequel to the Periplus, ap- 
peara to have identified this town with Masulipatam ; or, as he did not 
find the name in the modern maps, he concluded that " it might lie be- 
tween Puleachat and Bengal." The inference is totally inadmissible ; for 
in the first place Varthema interposes one thousand miles between 
ruleachet and Tarnassari, and in a subsequent chapter makes the lat- 
ter seven hundred miles from Banghella ; whilst the distance between 
Pulicat and Masulipatam is only 220, and between Masulipatam and 
the mouths of the Ganges somewhat under 500 miles. Moreover, the 
branch of the Kistnah runs to the south of Masulipatam, but the river of 
Tarnassari was on the north of that town. The fauna and flora of thecoun- 
try, as also several of its other productions, as described by our traveller, 
are equally irreconcilable with the south of India ; whereas, taking his 
Tarnassari to be identical with Tenasserim on the eastern coast of the 
ancient kingdom of Siam, and of which at the time it formed a part, these 
inconsistencies disappear, and his conjectural distances and other data 
are approximately correct. The only point which I have been unable 
to clear up, either from a want of historical records of the period, or 
from my own unacquaintance with them, is Varthema's twice repeated 
statement that there was continual war between the king of Tarnassari 
and the Narsinga, with the latter of whom, in this chapter, he couples 
the king of Bamjhella. 

Like Dr. Vincent, I long searched in vain for a Tarnassari on the 
southern coast of India, but ultimately found one iu Baldams's map 
placed some distance inland on the south side of the branch of the 
Kistnah which debouches at Masulipatam. As he gives no account of 
the place, I presume that he borrowed the name directly from Varthema, 
or from some subsequent geographers who drew the same erroneous infer- 
ence respecting its locality as Dr. Vincent. In fact, I found the follow- 
ing description of the town, under the heading of " Narsinga; Reqnum" 
in the Geography of Io. Ant. Magino Patavino, printed at Bologna, a.d. 
1597, which is evidently compiled from this and the two chapters suc- 
ceeding the next of Varthema's narrative : — " Tarnassari urbs ad hoc 
regnum pertinet, qua; olim proprium agnoscebat regem idololatram, val- 
<i(' potehtem, qui ail bellum mittere solebat centum elephantes armatos, 
et centum millia milites, turn equites turn pedestres. Incoloc hujus 
urbis uxores suas dellorandas albicantis coloris hominibus tradunt, sive 
Chi istianis, sive Mahuractanis ; qua) quidem uxores ornataj accomptre 
post mariti obitum honoris ac fidelitatis ergo viva; construuntur una 


level place and well watered, and has a good port, that is, 
a river on the side towards the north. The king of the city 

cum viri cadavere, aliter perpetua infamise nota laborarent : quern 
morem in uuiverso quoq; Narsingce regno observant." Geographic 
Universal turn Veteris him Novae absolutissimum Opzis, etc., p. 258. 

As far as I know, Varthenia's is the first authentic account which we 
possess of the province of Tenasserim, with the exception of the follow- 
ing brief notice by Conti about a.d. 1440 : — " Leaving the island of 
Taprobane [Sumatra], he arrived, after a stormy voyage of seventeen 
days, at the city of Ternassari, which is situated on the mouth of a 
river of the same name. The land around abounds in elephants and 
produces much brazil-wood." (Ramusio, vol. i, p. 339.) Barbosa, a few 
years after our traveller, gives us some additional particulars respecting 
its government, from which we learn that it was then a province of 
Siain, but ruled by an almost independent viceroy : — " Immediately on 
leaving the kingdom of Pegu, there is another called Ternassari, where 
are many Moorish and Gentile merchants, who trade in all kinds of 
wares. They have vessels with which they navigate towards Bengala, 
and Malaca, and other parts. Very excellent benzoin, which is the juice 
of certain trees, is grown in the interior, and the Moors call it lubaniabi 
\luban Jdwi, Java frankincense ?]. In this port of Ternassari there are 
many Moors from different parts." And in the Summary of Kingdoms 
we read : — " The Siamese trade on the Tenacerim side with Pacem, Pedir, 
Queda, Pegu, Bengala, and Guzerat. The king [of Siam] is called Per- 
choara, which means the lord of all. With the king is Aiam Campetit, 
who is viceroy on the side of Pegu, and makes war with Brema [Burmah] 
and Iamgoma...The second, who is viceroy of Longor, is called Peraia... 
The other is the Ala Chatoteri, who is the viceroy on the side of Queda 
and Tenacerin : he is a chief person, and has power over all. He is 
perpetual captain of Tenacerin, is lord over many people, and of a coun- 
try abounding in all kinds of provisions." {Ramusio, vol. i. p. 330.) Ralph 
Fitch, a.d. 1583-91, merely mentions that he passed by Tenasseri on his 
way from Pegu to Malacca. In 1600, Master John Davis touched at " the 
city of Tanassartn," which he styles " a place of great trade." (Greene, 
vol. i. p. 261.) He was followed in 1612 by Captain John Floris, who 
states that it was then tributary to Pegu, (Id. p. 439,) by which power 
the province had been conquered in 1568, but was recovered by the 
black king of Siam, aided by the Portuguese, in 1603. (Mod. Univ. 
History, vol. vi. p. 259.) Purchas records that " in the year 1606 Bal- 
thasar Sequerius, a Jesuit, land'mgtit Tanassery, passed from thence,partly 
by good rivers, partly over cragged and rough hills and forests stored 
with rhinoceros, elephants, and tigers, into Odia" [the capital of Siam.] 
(Vol. i. p. 491.) Master William Methold, about a.d. 1619, describes 


is a Pagan, and is a very powerful lord. He is constantly 
fighting with the king of Narsinga and the king of Ban- 
ghella. He has a hundred armed elephants, which are larger 
than any I ever saw. He always maintains 100,000 men 
for war, part infantry and part cavalry. Their arms consist 
of small swords and some sort of shields, some of which are 
made of tortoise-shell, and some like those of Calicut; and 
they have a great quantity of bows, and lances of cane, and 
some also of wood. When they go to war they wear a dress 
stuffed very full of cotton. The houses of this city are well 
surrounded by walls. Its situation is extremely good, after 
the manner of Christians, and good grain and cotton also 
grow there. Silk is also made there in large quantities. 1 A 

the province as follows : — " Tanassery lyeth next to Pegu, a small king- 
dom and tributary to Syam, from which place this is but the port, and 
that only to the inhabitants of this gulf [Bengal ;] for we find a way 
with our shipping into the river of Syara." {Id. vol. v. p. 993.) Man- 
delslo, twenty years later, reckons Tanacerim among the principal 
tributary cities of Siam. ( Voyages, p. 334.) The English had a factory 
at Mergui on the Tenasseritn river about this time, but in 1687 the 
settlers were nearly all massacred by the Siamese. (See Pinkerton, 
vol. viii. p. 429-30.) Turpin describes the province in 1770 as producing 
"an abundance of rice and excellent fruits. It is in its safe and com- 
modious port that vessels of all nations arrive, and the people find more 
means of subsisting there than in the other parts of the kingdom." {Id. 
vol. ix. p. 578.) From that period, however, Teuasserim appears to have 
declined in importance, chiefly by the removal of its trade to Mergui. 
{Mod. Univ. Hist., vol. vi. p. 267.) In 1793 the entire province was ceded 
to Ava, and in 1826 it became a British possession by the Treaty of Yan- 
daboo. The old town is now a place of no importance, containing only 
one hundred houses and four hundred inhabitants. It is situate on the 
river of the same name, at the confluence of the Little Tenasseritn. The 
river is navigable up to the town for vessels of one hundred and twenty 
tons burthen. The town was once surrounded by a brick wall, which is 
now so much in ruins that its remains can be traced only at intervals." 
The trade of the province is as yet comparatively insignificant, but the 
population, since the British domination, has increased from 90,000 to 
191,476. See Thornton's Gazetteer. 

1 " Cotton is grown to a small extent in the province of Tenasserim, 
but it is not indigenous, and was probably introduced from the continent 


great deal of brazil-wood is found there, fruits in great 
abundance, and some which resemble our apples and pears, 
some oranges, lemons, and citrons, and gourds in great 
abundance. 1 And here are seen very beautiful gardens, with 
many delicate things in them. 


In this country of Tarnassari there are oxen, cows, sheep, 
and goats in great quantities, 2 wild hogs, stags, roebucks, 
wolves, cats which produce the civet, lions, peacocks in 
great multitudes, falcons, goss-hawks, white parrots, and also 

of India." (Thornton's Gazetteer?) I find no mention of silk as a natu- 
ral production of the country ; but Yule calls it " the staple of the 
import trade" into Burraah, " and is said to come from a city called 
Tsa-ckoe-Sing, eighty-three days' journey from Bamo, and fifty days 
beyond the city of Yunan." He estimates the value of silk imported in 
1854 at ,£120,000, and states that the weaving of the raw material gives 
employment to a large body of the population. ""(JYar rat ive of a Mission 
to the Court of Ava, pp. 149-53.) Varthema probably alludes to this 
manufacture, for he does not say that the country produces silk, but 
merely " se fa quivi seta in grandissima quantita." 

1 " The fruits are the pineapple, mango, orange, shaddock, lime, citron, 
melon, gourd, guava, and darian." Thornton's Gazetteer. 

2 Captain Low, writing of the provinces of Tenasserim and Mergui, 
says : "goats are scarce, and there are no sheep !" In like manner, 
Ctesar Fredericke, sixty years after Varthema, states that at all the 
villages on his route " hennes, pigeons, eggs, milk, rice, and other 
things, be very good and cheape ;" whereon Colonel Yule remarks : — 
"a very different state of things from the present, when our hungry 

purveyors complain that they can get neither ' hennes' nor eggs, let 
alone ' other things,' for love or money." Allowing for exaggeration 
in the accounts of the old travellers, it seems evident that the agricul- 
tural and other productions of Pegu, as well as its population and trade, 
have greatly fallen off since their time, the consequence, doubtless, of 
the intestine aui foreign wars which for upwards of a century subse- 
quent to their visits devastated the country, and of the misrule which 
succeeded. See Narrative of a Mission to the Court of Ava, pp. 211-2. 


other kinds which are of seven very beautiful colours. Here 
there arc hares and partridges, but not like ours. There is 
also here another kind of bird, one of prey, much larger 
than an eagle, of the beak of which, that' is, of the upper 
part, they make sword-hilts, which beak is yellow and red, 
a thing very beautiful to behold. The colour of the said 
bird is black, red, and some feathers are white. 1 There are 
produced here hens and cocks, the largest I ever saw, so 
much so that one of these hens is larger than three of ours. 
In this country in a few days we had great pleasure from 
some things which we saw, and especially that every day in 
the street where the Moorish merchants abide they make 
some cocks fight, and the owners of these cocks bet as much 
as a hundred ducats on the one which will fight best. And. 
we saw two fight for five hours continuously, so that at the 
last both remained dead. 2 Here also is a sort of goat, much 
larger than ours, and which is much more handsome, and 
which always has four kids at a birth. Ten and twelve 
large and good sheep are sold here for a ducat. And there 
is another kind of sheep, which has horns like a deer : 3 these 

1 I am indebted to the kindness of Professor Owen of the British 
Museum for the following interesting note : — " This coloured bill applies 
to the Helmet-Hornbill, {Buceros galeatus,) of which the bowl of a 
jewelled ladle, for sherbet, which was sent from Constantinople for my 
inspection, was formed. The tradition of this sherbet-ladle, which is 
part of the crown-jewels of the Sultan, is that the bowl was made from 
the beak of the Phoenix. Buceros galeatus, however, is not known to 
exist, as an indigenous bird, out of the islands of the Indian Archipelago. 
Its plumage agrees, in a general way, with that ascribed to a bird with 
the parti-coloured bill in the text." 

2 According to Turpin, " cock-fighting in Siam attracts multitudes, 
as the field is always stained by the death of one of the combatants." 
(Pxnkerton, vol. ix. p. 598.) Low also, in his History of Tenasserim, 
says : " they fight cocks with artificial spurs, but these are generally 
made of bone, or of an alligator's tooth, or even of a human bone, if the 
parties are of royal extraction, and so shaped as to resemble the natural 
spur." Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, vol. ii. p. 272. 

3 " More probably like an ox. It may refer to the huge horns of the 
male of Ovis amnion," Professor Owek. 


are larger than ours, and fight most terribly. There are 
bufifalos here, much more misshapen than ours. There are 
also great numbers of fish like ours. 1 saw here, however, 
a bone of a fish which weighed more than ten cantari. 1 
With respect to the manner of living of this city, the Pagans 
eat all kinds of flesh excepting that of oxen, 2 and they eat on 
the ground, without a cloth, in some very beautiful vessels of 
wood. Their drink is water, sweetened where possible. 
They sleep high from the ground, in good beds of cotton, 
and covered with silk or cotton. Then, as to their dress, 
they go alia apostolical with a quilted cloth of cotton or silk. 
Some merchants wear very beautiful shirts of silk or cotton : 
in general, they do not wear anything on their feet, except- 
ing the Brahmins, who also wear on the head a cap of silk 
or camelot, which is two spans long. In the said cap they 
wear on the top a thing made like a hazel-nut, which is 
worked all round in gold. They also wear two strings of 
silk, more than two fingers wide, which they hang round 
the neck. They wear their ears full of jewels and none on 
their fingers. 4 The colour of the said race is semi-white, 

1 Turpin says : " The rivers and sea coasts of this kingdom [Siain] 
abound more with fish than elsewhere : the reason doubtless is, because 
the rivers for six months in the year overflow the sown grounds, and 
then the fish find plenty of food, and do not prey on one another." (Pin- 
kerton, vol. ix. p. 632.) The bone which Varthema describes may have 
been that of a stray whale, as, according to Crawfurd, whales are only 
found in this region on the shores of some of the more easterly islands 
of the Archipelago. The Italian cantaro varies in different provinces 
and according to the article weighed. Its average is about a cwt. 

2 " The people live on rice, fish, venison, pork, and in general on the 
flesh of almost every sort of animal and reptile ; but they seldom use 
beef or poultry, and do not make butter." Journ. of R. A. Soc, vol. ii. 
p. 266. 

3 See note on p. 112 ante. 

4 A similar dress is described by Colonel Symes as worn by the Bur- 
mese gentry : — " It consists of a long robe, either of flowered satin or 
velvet, reaching to the ancles, with an open collar and loose sleeves ; 

'102 '1 il i; TRAVELS OF 

because the air here is cooler than it is in Calicut, and the 
seasons are the same as with us, and also the harvests. 1 




The king of the said city does not cause his wife's vir- 
ginity to be taken by the Brahmins as the king of Calicut 
does, but he causes her to be deflowered by white men, 
whether Christians or Moors, provided they be not Pagans. 
Which Pagans also, before they conduct their wives to their 
house, find a white man, of whatever country he may be, 
and take him to their house for this particular purpose, to 
make him deflower the wife. And this happened to us when 
we arrived in the said city. We met by chance three or 
four merchants, who began to speak to my companion in 
this wise : " Langalli ni pardesi," that is, " Friend, are you 
strangers ?" He answered : " Yes." Said the merchants : 
" Ethera nali ni banno," that is, " How many days have 
you been in this country ?" We replied : " Mun nal gnad 
banno," that is, " It is four days since we arrived." Another 

over this there is a scarf, or flowing mantle, that hangs from the 
shoulders ; and on their heads they wear high caps made of velvet, 
either plain or of silk embroidered with flowers of gold, according to the 
rank of the wearer. Earrings are a part of male dress : persons of con- 
dition use tubes of gold about three inches long, and as thick as a 
large quill, which expands at one end like the mouth of a speaking- 
trumpet ; others wear a heavy mass of gold beaten into a plate, and 
rolled up ; this lump of metal forms a large orifice in the lobe of the 
ear, and drags it down by the weight, to the extent sometimes of two 
inches." Pinkerton, vol. ix. p. 496. 

1 " The natives on the coast divide the year into three seasons, viz., the 
hot, the rainy, and the cold ; the temperature, however, hardly varies 
sufficiently to justify the adoption of this division. Tiiornto.v's Ga- 


one of the said merchants said : " Biti banno gnan piga- 
manathon ondo," that is, " Come to my house, for we arc 
great friends of strangers;" and we, hearing this, went 
with him. When we had arrived at his house, he gave us a 
collation, and then he said to us : " My friends, Patanci 
nale banno gnan penna periti in penna orangono panna 
panni cortu," that is, " Fifteen days hence I wish to bring 
home my wife, and one of you shall sleep with her the first 
night, and shall deflower her for me." We remained quite 
ashamed at hearing such a thing. Then our interpreter said: 
" Do not be ashamed, for this is the custom of the country." 
Then my companion hearing this said : " Let them not do 
us any other mischief, for we will satisfy you in this ;" but 
we thought that they were mocking us. The merchant saw 
that we remained undecided, and said: " O langal limaran- 
conia ille ocha manezar irichenu," that is, " Do not be dis- 
pirited, for all this country follows this custom." Finding 
at last that such was the custom in all this country, as one 
who was in our company affirmed to us, and said that we 
need have no fear, my companion said to the merchant that 
he was content to go through this fatigue. The merchant 
then said : " I wish you to remain in my house, and that 
you, your companions and goods, be lodged here with me 
until I bring the lady home." Finally, after refusing, we 
were obliged to yield to his caresses, and all of us, five in 
number, together with all our things, were lodged in his 
house. Fifteen days from that time this merchant brought 
home his wife, and my companion slept with her the first 
night. She was a young girl of fifteen years, and he did for 
the merchant all that he had asked of him. But after the 
first night, it would have been at the peril of his life if he 
had returned again, although truly the lady would have 
desired that the first night had lasted a month. The mer- 
chants, having received such a service from some of us, 
would gladly have retained us four or five months at their 


own expense, for all kinds of wares cost very little money, 

and also because they are most liberal and very agreeable 
men. 1 


All the Brahmins and the king are burnt after death, and 
at that time a solemn sacrifice is made to the devil. And 
-then they preserve the ashes in certain vases made of baked 
earth, vitrified like glass, which vases have the mouth nar- 
row like a small scutella. 2 They then bury this vase with 
the ashes of the burnt body within their houses. When 
they make the said sacrifice, they make it under some trees, 

1 I find nothing to confirm the flagrant profligacy described in this 
chapter, either as regards Tenasserim or Siam ; on the contrary, Turpin 
states that " the nuptial couch is seldom polluted by adultery... There is 
a whimsical custom, however, which deranges all matrimonial agree- 
ments. Sometimes the monarch bestows a wife, of whom he is tired, on 
one of his favourites : it is a flattering distinction, which often con- 
strains the inclination." (Pinkerton, vol. ix. p. 585.) Nevertheless, 
revolting as the custom must appear to us, and difficult as it may be 
to account for so strange an illustration of human depravity, I see no 
reason to doubt the veracity of Varthema's narrative, more especially as 
Richard describes a similar usage as prevailing in the neighbouring 
country of Aracan : — " Virginity is not an esteemed virtue with them. 
Husbands prefer running the risk of fathering the children of others, 
rather than marry a novice. It is generally Dutch sailors, who are 
liberally paid for this infamous prostitution." Id. pp. 760-1. 

The colloquy between Varthema's party and the Tenasserim mer- 
chants was carried on through an interpreter, who appears to have 
communicated with the former in a corrupt Malayalim, as the specimens 
of the native dialect introduced bear a close affinity to those given in 
one of the preceding chapters on Calicut. 

a Or scodella. This word, which is nearly obsolete except in some of 
the Italian dialects, signifies a bowl or basin, and according to Alberti 
is a diminutive form of scudo, a shield. Not an inappropriate name for 
the chatties common throughout India, the lower part of which is round 
and convex. The upper part is generally drawn into a narrow mouth. 


after the manner of Calicut. And for burning the dead 
body they light a fire of the most odoriferous things that can 
be found, such as aloes-wood, benzoin, sandal-wood, brazil- 
wood, 1 storax and amber, incense, and some beautiful 

1 In the original, " verzino ;" but I am at a loss to account for the ety- 
mology of the word. It cannot be a corruption of " Brazil," for Conti uses 
it half a century before the discovery of that country in his brief descrip- 
tion of Ternasseri : — "Tutto il paese ch'e al'intorno ecopioso dielephanti, 
e vi nasco molto verzino." {Ramusio, vol. i. p. 332.) The Latin original has 
verzano, which by a mistake, such as the most careful translators some- 
times fall into, is rendered '•' a species of thrush" in the translation of 
De' Conti's travels contained in India in the Fifteenth Century, ii. p. 9. 
The wood indicated is doubtless the Sappan, (Ccesalpina sap/pan,) which 
abounds in this quarter. Mr. O'Riley, in his Vegetable Products of the 
Tenasserim Provinces, writes : — " For many years past a trade from Mer- 
gui to Dacca in Sapan wood has been prosecuted by the native boats, the 
article being obtained from the Sapan- wood forests lying near the fron- 
tier hills, from the eastern side of which large supplies are annually 
imported through Bangkok into Singapore. It is also found throughout 
the valley of the Great Tenasserim river." {Journal of the Indian 
Archipelago, vol. iv. p. 60.) With regard to the dye-wood in question, 
Crawfurd says : " It has, like many indigenous products, a distinct 
name in the different languages, the only agreement, and this not per- 
fect, being between the Malay and Javanese, in the first of which it is 
called Sdpang, the origin of the European commercial and scientific 
names, and in Javanese Sdchang. In one language of the true Moluccas 
we have it as Samya, and in another as Iioro, while in Amboynese it is 
Lolan, and in the Tagala of the Philippines Sibukao" {Dictionary of the 
Indian Islands, p. 376 ;) and I may add that the Arabic name is Bdhham. 
None of these, however, afford any clue to the Italian word verzino. If 
the latter has any relationship with the term "Brazil," is it not possible 
that that name was a corruption of the earlier verzino, and was given to 
the country so called on account of the quantity of Sappan-wood found 
there 1 

Since writing the above, I have lighted on the following interesting 
note by Mr. J. Winter Jones, which places the subject beyond dispute : 
— "The name given to this country [Brazil] by the discoverers was 
Santa Cruz, which was afterwards changed to Brazil, from the immense 
quantity of the wood so called found there. There is early evidence to 
prove that the wood gave the name to the country and not the country 
to the wood. The following passage occurs in the Liber Radicum of the 
Rabbi Kimchi, a Spaniard who lived in the thirteenth century : — 
'Algummin (2 Chron. ix. 10) alias Almugim (1 Kings, x. 12 ;) both 


branches of coral, 1 which things the}- place upon the body, 
and while it is burning all the instruments of the city are 
sounding. In like manner, fifteen or twenty men, dressed 
like devils, stand there and make great rejoicing. And his 
wife is always present, making most exceedingly great 
lamentations, and no other woman. And this is done at one 
or two o'clock of the night. 2 


In this city of Tarnassari, when fifteen days have passed 
after the death of the husband, the wife makes a banquet for 

stand for the same, and in common language it is called Corallo ; but 
some persons declare it to be a sort of wood used for dying, called in 
Arabic, Albakam, and in common language Brazil.'''' Hakl. Soc. Pubs., 
Divers Voyages touching the Disc, of America, p. 46, n. 

1 Grampa de coralli. " Coral, in large Branches, five and six Ryals 
the Mallaya Tael," is enumerated in Captain Saris's list among the 
articles most vendible in the Indian Archipelago. Greene, vol. i. p. 503. 

2 Ferdinand Mendez Pinto, (if he is to be believed,) witnessed the 
funeral of the king of Siam, which he describes as follows : — " A mighty 
great pile was forthwith erected, made of sandal, aloes, calembas, and 
benjamin ; on the which the body of the deceased king being laid, fire 
was put to it, with a strange ceremony : during all the time the body 
was a burning, the people did nothing but wail and lament beyond all 
expression ; but in the .end, it being consumed to ashes, they put them 
into a silver shrine, which they imbarqued in a Laulea very richly 
equipped, that was accompanied with forty Seroos full of Talagrepos, 
which are the highest dignity of their Gentile Priests, and a great num- 
ber of other vessels, wherein there was a world of people... All these 
vessels got to land at a Pagode, called Quiay Poutor, where the silver 
shrine, in which the king's ashes were, was placed." ( Voyages and Ad- 
ventures, p. 276.) Captain Low says that the Burmans and Peguers of 
the Tenasserim provinces generally burn their dead, but that all under 
fifteen years of age are buried. He adds : " The body of the high priest 
also, who died at Martaban, just after its capture, was burned in the way 
which is described in Symcs's Ava." Journal of the R. A. Society, vol. 
ii. ]>. 


all her relations and all those of her husband. And then they 
go with all the relations to the place where the husband was 
burnt, and at the same hour of the night. The said woman 
puts on all her jewels and other objects in gold, all that she 
possesses. And then her relations cause a hole to be made 
of the height of a human being, and around the hole they 
put four or five canes, around which they place a silken 
cloth, and in the said hole they make a fire of the abovemen- 
tioned things, such as were used for the husband. And 
then the said wife, when the feast is prepared, eats a great 
deal of betel, and eats so much that she loses her wits, and 
the instruments of the city are constantly sounding, together 
with the abovementioned men clothed like devils, who carry 
fire in their mouths, as I have already told you in Calicut. 
They also offer a sacrifice to Deumo. 1 And the said wife goes 
many times up and down that place, dancing with the other 
women. And she goes many times to the said men clothed 
like devils, to entreat and tell them to pray the Deumo that 
he will be pleased to accept her as his own. And there are 
always present here a great many women who are her rela- 
tions. Do not imagine, however, that she is unwilling to do 
this ; she even imagines that she shall be carried forthwith 
into heaven. And thus running violently of her own free 
will, she seizes the abovementioned cloth with her hands, 
and throws herself into the midst of the fire. And imme- 
diately her relations and those most nearly allied to her fall 
upon her with sticks and with balls of pitch, and this they 
do only that she may die the sooner. And if the said wife 
were not to do this, she would be held in like estimation as 
a public prostitute is among us, and her relations would put 
her to death. When such an event takes place in this 
country the king is always present. However, those who 
undergo such a death are the most noble of the land: all, in 

1 See note 2 on p. 137 ante. 


general, do not do thus. 1 I have seen in this city of Tar- 
nassari another custom, somewhat less horrible than the 
beforementioned. There will be a young man who will 
speak to a lady of love, and will wish to give her to un- 
derstand that he really is fond of her, and that there is 
nothing he would not do for her. And, discoursing with her 
in this wise, he will take a piece of rag well saturated with 
oil, and will set fire to it, and place it on his arm on the 
naked flesh, and whilst it is burning he will stand speaking 
with that lady, not caring about his arm being burnt, in 
order to show that he loves her, and that for her he is willing 
to do every great thing. 2 

1 It would appear from the foregoing narrative that the practice of 
Sati at Tenasserim was confined to a particular sect, which did not 
include the royal family of Siam ; for Pinto relates that the widow of 
the king, whose funeral he describes, subsequently " married Uquum- 
cheniraa, who had been one of the purveyors of her house, and caused 
him to be crowned king in the city of Odiaa, the eleventh of November, 
1545." Voyages and Adventures, p. 278. 

2 The proof by fire, in default of written or testimonial evidence, ap- 
pears to have formed part of the judiciary system of Siam ; but I have 
met with nothing to corroborate its use in the wooing of Tenasserim 
lovers. Captain Low describes the modern ceremony of marriage, 
omitting all mention of the fiery ordeal : — " The Elder now gives the 
bride a nosegay, and makes her repeat some Bali sentences, first directed 
to her father, again to her mother, next to the parents of the bride- 
groom, and lastly to her husband. The bridegroom goes through the 
same ceremony, beginning with his parents and relatives, but does not 
address the bride. The Elder then takes the flower from the bride, and 
places it on the wall of the house ; she takes a little rolled-up betel-leaf 
and presents it to the bridegroom, who exchanges the flower for it. They 
then both sit on one mat, the bridegroom on the right ; a feast ensues, 
and they finish the ceremonies by eating out of the same dish." Journ. 
Roy. As. Soc, vol. ii. p. 270. 



He who kills another in this country is put to death, the 
same as in Calicut. 1 With respect to conveying- and holding, 
it is necessary that it should appear by writing or by wit- 
nesses. Their writing is on paper like ours, not on the 
leaves of a tree like that of Calicut. And then they go to 
a governor of the city, who administers justice for them 
summarily. However, when any foreign merchant dies who 
has no wife or children, he cannot leave his property to 
whomsoever he pleases, because the king wills to be his 
heir. And in this country, that is, the natives, commencing 
from the king, after his death his son remains king. 2 And 
when any Moorish merchant dies, very great expense is in- 
curred in odoriferous substances to preserve the body, which 
they put into wooden boxes and then bury it, placing the 
head towards the city of Mecca, which comes to be towards 
the north. 3 If the deceased have children, they are his 

1 That is, by impalement ; see p. 147 ante. Turpin, in his History of 
Siam, describes the horrible process as follows : — " The criminal is made 
to lie down on his belly, and after being securely tied, a stake of wood is 
forced up his fundament by the blows of a club, and it is driven till it 
comes out, either through the stomach or through the shoulders : they 
afterwards raise this stake, and fix it in the earth. It often happens 
that the sufferer dies under the operation, but sometimes the stake 
passes through the body without injuring any of the noble parts, and 
then the poor wretch endures for several days the most agonizing tor- 
ments." PlNKERTON, Vol. ix. p. 594. 

a I infer from Pinto, who states that the son of the king, whose death 
he records, succeeded his father, though he was shortly after poisoned by 
the queen mother, that the sovereignty of Siam was hereditary. The 
same order of succession probably prevailed as regards the Viceroys of 
the principal provinces. See note on p. 197 ante, where the ruler of the 
dependency of Tenasserim is styled " perpetual Captain." 

3 This is another incidental proof that Varthema's Tarnassari was not 
on the coast of Bengal, which is nearly in the same latitude as Meccah. 




These people make use of very large ships and of vari- 
ous kinds, some of which are made flat bottomed, because 
such can enter into places where there is not much water. 
Another kind are made with prows before and behind, and 
they carry two helms and two masts, and are uncovered. 
There is also another kind of large ship which is called 
Giunchi} and each of these is of the tonnage of one thousand 
butts, on which they carry some little vessels to a city called 
Melacha, 2 and from thence they go with these little vessels 
for small spices to a place which you shall know when the 
proper time comes. 


Let us return to my companion, for he and I had a desire 
to see farther on. After we had been some days in this said 
city, and being, indeed, tired of that same service of which 
you have heard above, and having sold some of our mer- 
chandise we took the route towards the city of BangheUa, 3 

1 " The name for a large trading vessel in Malay and Javanese \sjung, 
which the Portugues'e converted into junco, and we, improving on this 
corruption, into junk." Crawfurd's Desc. Diet, of the Indian Islands. 

- Malacca. 

3 Goxir was undoubtedly the capital of Bengal at this period, but it 
appears that the name of the province was very commonly applied to 
the city, more especially by foreigners. The following is from Barbosa : 
— " Beyond the Ganges, onward towards the East, is the kingdom of 
Bengcda, wherein there are many places and cities, as well inland as on 
the sea-coast. Those in the interior are inhabited by Gentiles, who 
are subject to the king of Bcngala, who is a Moor ; and the stations on 
the coast are full of Moors and Gentiles, among whom are many mer- 
chants and traders to all parts. For this sea forms a gulf which bends 
towards the north, at the head of which is situated a great city inhabited 


which is distant from Tarnassari seven hundred miles, at 
which we arrived in eleven days by sea. This city was one 
of the best that I had hitherto seen, and has a very great 
realm. The sultan of this place is a Moor, and maintains 
two hundred thousand men for battle on foot and on horse ; 
and they are all Mohammedans ; and he is constantly at war 

by Moors, which is called Bengala.'" (Ramusio, vol. i. p. 330.) In 1537, 
during the viceroyalty of Nunno de Cunna, when the Portuguese first 
attempted to establish a fort in Bengal, " Goivro, the capital city, ex- 
tended three leagues in length along the Ganges, and contained 
1,200,000 families." (Greene, vol. i. p. 84.) In Ralph Fitch's time, 
1583-1591, Tanda appears to have succeeded Gour as the capital of the 
kingdom, which had then become tributary to the Moghul Emperor : — 
" From Patanau [Patna] I went to Tanda, which is in the land of 
Gouren. It hath in times past been a kingdom, but is now subdued by 
Zelabdim Echebar [Jalal ed-Din, Akbar.] Great trade and traffic is 
here of cotton and cloth of cotton... It standeth in the country of Ben- 
gala... Tanda standeth from the Ganges a league, because in times past 
the river flowing over the banks in time of rain drowned the country 
and many villages, and so they remain. And the old way which the 
river Ganges was wont to run remaineth dry, which is the occasion that 
the city standeth so far from the water." (Pinkerton, ix. p. 414.) I 
conclude, therefore, that Mandelslo errs in enumerating Bengal as a 
city of that province distinct from Gour and Tanda. He says : "En tirant 
vers le septentrional on trouve le royaume de Bengala, qui donne le 
nom au golfe que les anciens appellent Sinus Gangeticus... On trouve plu- 
sieurs belles villes dans ce royaume, comme sont celles de Gouro, d'Ougely, 
de Chatigan, de Bengala, de Tanda, de Baca, de Patana, de Banares, 
d'Elabas, et de Ragmehela." ( Voyages, p. 290.) The following is from 
Major Rennell on this subject : — " Gour, called also Lucknouti, the an- 
cient capital of Bengal, and supposed to be the Gangia regia of Ptolemy, 
stood on the left bank of the Ganges, about twenty-five miles below Ra- 
jemal. It was the capital of Bengal 730 years B.C., and was repaired and 
beautified by Homayoon, who gave it the name of Jeunuteabad, which 
name a part of the circar, in which it was situated, still bears. Accord- 
ing to Ferishta's account, the unwholesomeness of its air occasioned it to 
be deserted soon after, and the seat of government was removed to Tan- 
dah or Tanrah, a few miles higher up the river. No part of the site of 
ancient Gour is nearer to the present bank of the Ganges than four 
miles and a half, and some parts of it which were regularly washed by 
that river are now twelve miles from it." Mem. of a Map of Hindostan, 
quoted in Stewart's Hist, of Bengal, p. 44. 


with the king of Narsingha. 1 This country abounds more in 
grain, flesh of every kind, in great quantity of sugar, also of 
ginger, and of great abundance of cotton, than any country 
in the world. And here there are the richest merchants I 
ever met with. Fifty ships are laden every year in this 
place with cotton and silk stuffs, which stuffs are these, that 
is to sav, bairam, namone, lizati, ciantar, doazar, and sina- 
baff. These same stuffs go through all Turkey, through 
Syria, through Persia, through Arabia Felix, through 
Ethiopia, and through all India. 2 There are also here very 
great merchants in jewels, which come from other countries. 


We also found some Christian merchants here. They 
said that they were from a city called Sarnau, and had 
brought for sale silken stuffs, and aloes-wood, and benzoin, 
and musk. Which Christians said that in their country 
there were many lords also Christians, but they are subject 
to the great Khan [of] Cathai. 3 As to the dress of these 

1 I have failed to discover any historical notices confirmatory of this 
remark, though it is highly probable that the Sultans of Bengal co- 
operated generally with the Mussulman powers of the Deccan at this 
period against the great Brahminical kingdom of Bijayanagar. (See 
note 2, on p. 125 ante.) The reigning sovereign at the time of Varthe- 
ma's visit must have been the Patan Sultan 'Ala ed-Din Husein Shah 
bin Seyyed Ashraf. 

2 These names are mostly of Arabic or Persian derivation, and several 
of them are still in use among the Arabs, while similar technical terms, 
which obtained among British traders in the time of Captain Saris, 
such as Sayes, Rashes, Bozirats, Caniant, Juwart, etc., have disappeared 
from our modern commercial vocabulary. In Varthema's sinabaff, I 
recognize Sina baft, China woven-cloth. 

3 From the description of the manners of these Christians, I should 
have inferred that they were Armenians, but as they wrote contrary to 
us, that is, from right to left, they were most probably Nestorians. (I 


Christians, they were clothed in a xebec 1 made with folds, 
and the sleeves were quilted with cotton. And on their 
heads they wore a cap a palm and a half long, made of red 
cloth. These same men are as white as we are, and confess 
that they are Christians, and believe in the Trinity, and 
likewise in the Twelve Apostles, in the four Evangelists, and 
they also have baptism with water. But they write in the 
contrary way to us, that is, after the manner of Armenia. 
And they say that they keep the Nativity and the Passion 
of Christ, and observe our Lent and other vigils in the 
course of the year. These Christians do not wear shoes, but 
they wear a kind of breeches made of silk, similar to those 

need hardly remark that Varthema is wrong in stating that the Arme- 
nians write in that way, for they write as we do from left to right.) 
Assernanni, indeed, concludes that all the Christians formerly in Tartary 
and China were Nestorians, quoting Marco Polo, among others, as his 
authority : — " Christianos in Sinarum regno Nestorianos fuisse, non 
Armenios, neque ex Armenia, sed partiin ex Assyria et Mesopotamia, 
partim ex Sogdiana, Bactriana et India illuc convolasse, eo maxime 
tempore, quo Tartari in illud regnum invaserunt, ipse Marcus Paulus 
Venetus, qui a Trigautio citatur, pluribus in locis aifirmat, ubi quoties 
Christianorum in Sinis meminit, eos Nestorianos vocat." The same 
author defines the limits of the ancient kingdom of Cathay as follows : — 
" Cataja Sinam borealem significat, quam orientalis SinEe nomine ap- 
pellant : habet autem Turchestanam ad occasum ; Sinam ad austrum ; 
terrain et mare Esonis, vulgd de Jesso, ad ortum ; et Tartariam veram 
ad septentrionem. Sericse antiquoe pars est, ut ex Ptoleinseo scribit 
Cellarius ;" but I have perused the interesting section from which this 
quotation is made, (Biblioth. Orient., vol. iv. § vi.), and every other avail- 
able author from Marco Polo downwards, without discovering any clue 
to Varthema's city of Sarnau. The only additional information which 
his book affords respecting its locality is given in a subsequeut chapter, 
and while he was at Sumatra, from which island his Christian com- 
panions told him it was 3,000 miles distant. 

I note, as a mere coincidence, that Ferdinand Mendez Pinto designates 
the kingdom of Siam "The Empire of Sornau." {Voyages and Ad- 
ventures, p. 284.) Whether he had any better authority than that of 
his own fertile imagination for the name, I cannot say ; but I do not 
find it applied to that country by any other author. Gasparo Balbi 
and some of the early Portuguese writers calls it " Silon." 

1 A jerkin. 


worn by mariners, which breeches are all full of jewels, and 
their heads are covered with jewels. And they eat at a table 
after our fashion, and they eat every kind of flesh. These 
people also said that they knew that on the confines of the 
Rumi, that is, of the Grand Turk, there arc very great 
Christian kings. After a great deal of conversation with 
these men, my companion at last showed them his merchan- 
dise, amongst which there were certain beautiful branches 
of large coral. When they had seen these branches they 
said to us, that if we would go to a city where they would 
conduct us, that they were prepared to secure for us as 
much as 10,000 ducats for them, or as many rubies as in 
Turkey would be worth 100,000. l My companion replied 
that he was well pleased, and that they should depart imme- 
diately thence. The Christians said : " In two days' time 
from this a ship will sail which goes towards Pego, and we 
have to go with it ; if you are willing to come we will go 
together." Hearing this we set ourselves in order, and em- 
barked with the said Christians and with some other Persian 
merchants. And as we had been informed in this city that 
these Christians were most faithful, we formed a very great 
friendship with them. But before our departure from 
Banghella, we sold all the rest of the merchandise, with the 
exception of the corals, the saffron, and two pieces of rose- 
coloured cloth of Florence. We left this city, which I 
believe is the best in the world, that is, for living in. In 
which city the kinds of stuffs you have heard of before are 
not woven by women, but the men weave them. We de- 
parted thence with the said Christians, and went towards a 
city which is called Pego, distant from Banghella about a 
thousand miles. On which voyage we passed a gulf towards 
the south, and so arrived at the city of Pego. 

1 See note 1 on p. 206 ante. 



The city of Pego is on the mainland, and is near to the 
sea. On the left hand of this, that is, towards the east, there 

1 In chapter viii. of his Narrative of a Mission to the Court of Ava, 
Colonel Yule has arranged in chronological order a valuable collection 
of Notes on the Intercourse of the Burmese countries with Western nations 
up to the i)eace of Yandabo, comprising all the information available re- 
specting Pegu and the adjacent kingdoms at this period. These notes, 
with his own interspersed commentary, form the most authentic history of 
those kingdoms extant, and the four sketch maps representing the his- 
torical geography of the Burmese countries at several epochs, convey at 
a glance the principal political and territorial changes which have suc- 
cessively taken place in that empire since a.d. 1500. With regard to 
the map illustrative of that date, I perceive that Tavoy is apparently 
described as an independent state embracing the entire seabord between 
the tenth and fifteenth degrees of latitude, whereas in a preceding note 
on pp. 197-8, I have implied that Tenasserim, which is included within 
those limits, was the principal kingdom on that part of the coast at 
the period indicated, but subordinate, nevertheless, to the suzerainty of 
Siam. (Towards the end of that century Tenasserim became tributary 
to Pegu, and a few years later, cir. a.d. 1619, judging from the extract 
quoted from Master William Methold's Relations of the King dome of 
Golchonda, and other Neighbouring Nations within the Gulf of Bengode, 
in the note last referred to, it appears to have reverted, for a time at 
least, to the authority of Siam.) I notice this discrepancy rather by 
way of suggesting a doubt as to the correctness of my own inference, 
than with the idea of questioning the accuracy of my learned friend 
Colonel Yule. 

The following chapter from the Geography of Patavino, evidently 
compiled from the travels of Nicolo de' Conti, Varthema, Ceesar Frede- 
ricke, and the best authorities who succeeded them, contains so admira- 
ble an account of Pegu at the date when the work was published (1597), 
and when the kingdom was at the zenith of its glory, that I deem it 
worthy of quotation in full : — " PEGU regnum occupat littoris spatium 
300 milliarium iuxta Occidentalem oram sinus Bengalici, ab urbe scilicet 
Tauay ad caput usque Nigraes ; in Mediterraneis vero valde extenditur. 
Optimos habet portus, ex quibus pra;cipuus est Martabane, in quo one- 
rantur circiter 40 naues ex oryza, qute in insulam Sumatram compor- 
tantur. Ager huius regni pinguis ac fertilissimus est, et rei frumentarite 
ut plurimum admodum accommodus ; animalia innumera nutrit, inter 


is a very beautiful river, by which many ships go and come. 1 
The king of this city is a Pagan. Their faith, customs, 
manner of living and dress, are after the manner of Tarnas- 
sari ; but with respect to their colour, they are somewhat 
more white. And here, also, the air is somewhat more cold. 
Their seasons are like ours. This city is walled, and has 

qua; sunt equi pusilli, ad ferendurn tamen idonei, quorum ingens est 
numerus, sicut etiam eliphantorum, qui in altissimis quibusdam montibus 
capiuntur, ac ad belli usum adseruantur. Psittaci etiam vocaliores quam 
usquam alibi, et pulchriores reperiuntur, atque etiam feles, qui zibettum 
gignunt : arundines hie excrescunt ad crassitiem unius dolij : nascuntur 
quoque hie rubini. Unde regnum ipsum opulentissimum est et merca- 
toribus frequentissimum, qui commercijs plurimum operam nauant, et 
in ipsis portubus plures sunt mercatores Mauri ac gentiles. Deferunt 
autem ex hoc Regno ad Malacam oryzam, laccam, beuzuinum, museum, 
lapillos preciosos, argentum, batyrum, oleum, sal, cepas, et alia huius 
generis comestibilia : contra vero ex Malaca istuc ferunt porcellanas, 
colores, argentum vivum, a?s, cinnabarim, Damascumrloribus contextum, 
stannum, et alia. Ciuitas Regia est PEGU, clarissima totius India;, 
moenibus munita, et sedibus elegantissimus ornata, qua; a mari ciciter 25 
milliaribus abest, quam fluuius eiusdem nominis maximus abluit, qua; 
etiam per totum regnum percurrens intumescit interdum aded, ut mag- 
num terra? tradum inundet : unde ab hoc incola? oryzam copiosissiine 
colligunt. Pra;ter hanc sunt insignes Tauay, Martabane, et Losmin 
emporium celebre. Sunt autem Peguini mediocris statura;, magis ad 
crassitiem accedentes, agiles, et viribus pra;diti, ad bellum tamen inepti : 
nudi incedunt pra;ter pudenda, capita tegunt albicantis pannis ad instar 
mitra; : luxuria; prasterea valde dediti sunt, qui in mulierum gratiam ad 
virile membrum tintinabula aurea vel argentea appensa gestant ut sonum 
reddant dum per ciuitatem deambulant. Sunt verd super mortales 
omnes superstitiosissimi, et vanissimas habent circa religionem opiniones, 
ac ab omni veritate alienas. Rex PEGU multa hodie possidit regna, 
nempe Tangu, Prom, Melintay, Calam, Bacam, Mvrandil, Aica, Brema 
[Burmah ?] ad Septentrionem exposita ; deinde regnum Siam, et portus 
Martabance ac Ternasseri, et Aracam, ac Mucin regna : et appellari 
quoque consueuit a scriptoribus nonnullis Rex Brema;, seu Barinse." p. 

1 Symes says : " The Pegue river is called by the natives Bagoo 
Kioup, or Pegue rivulet, to distinguish it from Mioup, or river. It is 
navigable but a very few miles to the northward of the city of Pegue, 
and for this it is indebted wholly to the action of the tide." Pinker- 
ton, vol. ix., p. 446. 


good houses and palaces built of stone, with lime. 1 The 
king is extremely powerful in men, both foot and horse, 
and has with him more than a thousand Christians of the 
country which has been above mentioned to you. 2 And he 

1 So Ralph Fitch eighty years after Varthema :— " Pegu is a city very 
great, strong, and very fair, with walls of stone, and great ditches round 
about it. There are two towns, the old and the new. In the old town 
are all the merchants strangers, and very many merchants of the coun- 
try. All the goods are sold in the old town, which is very great, and 
hath many suburbs round about it, and all the houses are made of canes, 
which they call bambos, and are covered with straw." {Id., pp. 416-7.) 
Symes says : " The extent of ancient Pegue may still be accurately 
traced by the ruins of the ditch and wall that surrounded it : from this 
it appears to have been a quadrangle, each side measuring nearly a mile 
and a half. In several places the ditch is filled up with rubbish that has 
been cast into it, and the falling of its own banks ; sufficient, however, 
still remains to show that it was no contemptible defence." He de- 
scribes the streets of the new town as well paved with the bricks brought 
from the old city, but all the houses of the former as being made of 
mats, or sheathing boards, supported on bamboos or posts, " the king 
having prohibited the use of brick or stone in private buildings, from 
the apprehension that if people got leave to build brick houses, they 
might erect brick fortifications." Id., pp. 436-8. 

2 We have Colonel Yule's authority for believing that Armenians, 
who were most probably petty merchants like their representatives there 
at the present day, have long frequented the Burmese court and capital ; 
but the existence of a regiment of Armenians or Nestorians in the service 
of an Indian potentate at this period may be set down as a fable, and I 
read of no native Christians in Pegu prior to the advent of the Portu- 
guese a few years later. Conti, who visited several parts of the country 
in 1444, states that the people turned towards the East every morning, 
and with clasped hands said : " God in Trinity and His Law defend us !" 
Varthema probably heard that a similar belief was professed by a por- 
tion of the Pegu army, and forthwith christianized them. Yule makes 
the following remark on the Burmese prayer above quoted : — " This, 
which at first sight looks like fiction, is really an evidence of Conti's 
veracity. He had doubtless heard of the ' Three Precious Ones,' the 
Triad of Buddha, Dharma, and Sang a, the Buddha, the Law, and the 
Clergy." And he adds in a foot-note, that " in a letter which the King of 
Ava wrote to the Governor-General of India, in 1830, his majesty speaks 
of his ' observing the three objects of worship, namely, God, his Pre- 
cepts, and his Attendants or Priests.' " Mission to the Court of Ava, 
p. 208. 


gives to each, for pay, six golden pardai per month and his 
expenses. In this country there is a great abundance of 
grain, of flesh of every kind, and of fruits of the same as at 
Calicut. These people have not many elephants, but they 
possess great numbers of all other animals ; they also have 
all the kinds of birds which are found at Calicut. But there 
are here the most beautiful and the best parrots I had ever 
seen. Timber grows here in great quantities, long, and I 
think the thickest that can possibly be found. In like 
manner I do not know if there can be found in the world 
such thick canes as I found here, of which I saw some which 
were really as thick as a barrel. Civet-cats are found in 
this country in great numbers, three or four of which are 
sold for a ducat. The sole merchandise of these people is 
jewels, that is, rubies, which come from another city called 
Capellan, 1 which is distant from this thirty days' journey ; not 
that I have seen it, but by what I have heard from mer- 
chants. You must know that in the said city, a large 
pearl and diamond are worth more here than with us, and 
also an emerald. When we arrived in this country, the 
king was fifteen days' journey distant, fighting with another 
who was called king of Ava. 2 Seeing this, we determined to 

1 Fitch mentions the same locality : — "Caplan is the place where they 
find the rubies, saphires, and the spinelles: it standeth six days' journey 
from Ava, in the kingdom of Pegu. There are many great hills out of 
which they dig them." _(Pinkerton, vol. ix. p. 421.) Tavernier, " that 
rambling jeweller, who had read nothing, but had seen so much and so 
well," as Gibbon describes him, has the following on the same subject : — 
" There are but two places in the east in which coloured stones are 
found, that is, the kingdom of Pegu and the island of Ceylon. The first 
is a mountain about a dozen days' journey from Siren [Sirian], on the 
north-east, and is called Capelan. This is the mine which produces the 
greatest quantity of rubies and spinels, otherwise called the mother of 
rubies, yellow topazes, jacinths, amethysts, and other stones of different 
colours." Id. vol. viii. p. 250. 

2 Pegu was also at war with Ava when visited hy Hieronimo di San 
Stephano in 1496. In 1544, and again in 1552, it was subjected by the 
neighbouring King of Toungoo, called by Portuguese writers " King of 


go and find the king where he was, in order to give him 
these corals. And so we departed thence in a ship made all 
of one piece, 1 and more than fifteen or sixteen paces long. 
The oars of this vessel were made of cane. Understand well 
in what manner : where the oar takes the water it was cloven, 
and they insert a flat piece of board fastened by cords, so 
that the said vessel went with more power than a brigantine. 
The mast of it was a cane as thick as a barrel where they 
put in the provisions. In three days we arrived at a village 
where we found certain merchants, who had not been able 
to enter into the said city of Ava on account of the war. 
Hearing this, we returned with them to Pego, and five days 
afterwards the king returned to the said city, who had 
gained a very great victory over his enemy. On the second 
day after the return of the king, our Christian companions 
took us to speak with him. 


Do not imagine that the king of Pego enjoys as great a 
reputation as the king of Calicut, although he is so humane 
and domestic that an infant might speak to him, and he 

the Burraas," who extended his conquests over Ava, Magoung, Jan- 
gornai (Zinime), the west of Yunan, and other adjoining states. This 
monarch appears to have been still on the throne when Caesar Fredericke 
was at Pegu in 1586, and the extract from Patavino's Geography, quoted 
on pp. 215-6, gives an apparently authentic account of the different de- 
pendencies of the kingdom towards the end of that century. About that 
time, however, the empire began to decline, and its fall was as rapid as 
its rise : in 1600, Pegu was besieged by the kings of Aracan and 
Toungoo, and its sovereign put to death ; and thirteen years later the 
King of Ava was crowned at Pegu, from which period may be dated the 
dominance of the Avan monarchy over the lower provinces. See Yule's 
Narrative of a Mission to the Court of Ava, pp. 208-213. 

1 The fj.ovoi,v\a of the author of the Periplus. See Vincent's Com. 
and Nav. of the Ancients, vol. ii. p. 521. 


wears more rubies on him than the value of a very large 
city, and he wears them on all his toes. And on his legs he 
wears certain great rings of gold, all fall of the most beau- 
tiful rubies ; also his arms and his fingers all full. His ears 
hang down half a palm, through the great weight of the 
many jewels he wears there, so that seeing the person of the 
king by a light at night, he shines so much that he appears 
to be a sun. 1 The said Christians spoke with him, and told 
him of our merchandise. The king replied : " That we 
should return to him the clay after the next, because on the 
next day he had to sacrifice to the devil for the victory 
which he had gained." When the time mentioned was past, 
the king, as soon as he had eaten, sent for the said Chris- 
tians, and for my companion, in order that he might carry to 
him his merchandise. When the king saw such beautiful 
corals he was quite astonished and greatly pleased; for, in 
truth, among the other corals there were two branches, the 
like of which had never before entered India. This king 
asked what people we were. The Christians answered : 
" Sir, these are Persians." Said the king to the interpreter : 
" Ask them if they are willing to sell these things." My 
companions answered : " That the articles were at the service 
of his highness." Then the king began to say : " That he had 
been at war with the king of Ava for two years, and on that 

1 Both Gasparo Balbi and Ralph Fitch describe the richness of the 
King of Pegu's dress and the splendour of his court retinue in their 
time. The former saw him start on a war expedition against the King 
of Ava "all over covered with gold and jewels ;" and the latter says : 
" When the king rideth abroad, he rideth with a great guard, and many 
noblemen, often on an elephant with a fine castle upon him, very fairly 
gilded with gold, and sometimes in a great frame like a horse litter, 
which hath a little house upon it covered overhead, but open on the sides, 
which is all gilded with gold, and set with many rubies and saphires, 
whereof he hath infinite store in his country, and is carried on sixteen 
or eighteen men's shoulders.... He hath also houses full of gold and silver, 
and bringing in often, but spendeth very little.'''' Pikkerton, vol. ix. 
pp. 404, 418. 


account he had no money ; but that if we were willing to 
barter for so many rubies, he would amply satisfy us." We 
caused him to be. told by these Christians that we desired 
nothing further from him than his friendship, — that he 
should take the commodities and do whatever he pleased. 1 
The Christians repeated to him what my companion had 
charged them to say, by telling the king that he might take 
the corals without money or jewels. He hearing this liberality 
answered : " I know that the Persians are very liberal, but 
I never saAV one so liberal as this man;" and he swore by 
God and by the devil that he would see which would be the 
more liberal, he or a Persian. And then he desired one of 
his confidential servants to bring him a certain little box 
which was two palms in length, worked all round in gold, 
and was full of rubies, within and without. And when he 
had opened it, there were six separate divisions, all full of 
different rubies ; and he placed it before us, telling us we 
should take what we wished. My companion answered : 
" O, sir, you show me so much kindness, that by the faith 
which I bear to Mahomet I make you a present of all these 
things. And know, sir, that I do not travel about the world 
to collect property, but only to see different people and dif- 
ferent customs." The king answered : " I cannot conquer 
you in liberality, but take this which I give you." And so 
he took a good handful of rubies from each of the divisions 
of the said casket, and gave them to him. These rubies 
might be about two hundred, and in giving them he said : 
" Take these for the liberality you have exercised towards 

1 A thoroughly oriental way of driving a good bargain, though ex- 
tensively copied by tradesmen on the continent of Europe. The artifice 
is as old as the days of Abraham, who was a long time in getting the 
children of Heth to name the price of Machpelah. At length Ephron, 
overcoming his modesty, ventured to say : " My lord, the land is worth 
four hundred shekels of silver," (which was most probably ten times its 
value,) but politely added ; " What is that betwixt me and thee 1 " 
Genesis, chap, xxiii. 



me." And in like manner he gave to the said Christians 
two rubies each, which were estimated at a thousand ducats, 
and those of my companions were estimated at about one 
hundred thousand ducats. Wherefore by .this he may be 
considered to be the most liberal king in the world, and 
every year he has an income of about one million in gold. 
And this because in his country there is found much lacca, 1 
a good deal of sandal-wood, very much brazil-wood, cotton 
and silk 2 in great quantities, and he gives all his income to 
his soldiers. The people in this country are very sensual. 
After some days, the said Christians took leave for them- 
selves and for us. The king ordered a room to be given to 
us, furnished with all that was requisite for so long as we 
wished to remain there ; and so it was done. We remained 
in the said room five days. At this time there arrived news 
that the king of Ava was coming with a great army to make 
war upon him, on hearing which, this one [of Pego] went to 
meet him half way with a great many men, horse and foot. 
The next day we saw two women burnt alive voluntarily, 
in the manner as I have described it in Tarnassari. 

1 This I take to be the colouring matter produced by the lac insect, or 
coccus ficus, which is abundaut throughout the Burmese provinces. Bar- 
bosa speaks of it as one of the principal exports from Martaban, and 
says that the Indians and Persians called it Laco Martabani. He does 
not seem, however, to have been aware how it was produced : — " They 
say this lacca is the gum of trees ; others state that it is produced on the 
branches of trees, just as the grane grow in our parts, and this account 
seems more natural and probable. They carry it in small vases, because 
they may not gather too much of it." (Ramusio, vol. i. p. 317.) Alberti, 
in his definition of grane, says : — " Sono coccole d'un albero, simili quasi 
alle coccole dell' ellera, colle quali si tingono i panni in rosso o paonazzo 
ed e preziosa tinta. Oggidi si potrebbe anche dire CochenUle" The early 
Italian travellers appear to have used the same word, lacca, to describe 
both the lac and the lacca-wood. 

2 See note 1 on p. 198 ante. 





The next clay we embarked on board a ship and went to 
a city called Melacha, 1 which is situated towards the west, 
at which we arrived in eight days. Near to the said city we 
found an extremely great fiumara, as large as any we had 
ever seen, which they call Gaza, 2 which is evidently more 
than twenty-five miles wide. And opposite to the said river 
there is a very large island, which is called Sumatra. The 
inhabitants of it say that the circumference of it is four 
thousand five hundred miles. I will tell you about the said 
island at the proper time. When we had arrived at the city 
of Melacha, we were immediately presented to the Sultan, 
who is a Moor, as is also all his kingdom. 3 The said city is 

1 Malacca, or, more correctly, Malaca, the well-known town on the 
western side of the Malay peninsula. Our traveller was the first to 
make Europe acquainted with its name and situation. 

2 By " fiumara" Varthema undoubtedly means the Straits, which are 
about twenty-five miles broad opposite Malacca. " Gaza," I take to be 
a contraction of Boghdz, the Arabic for a strait. The Arabs of the 
present day use the same word to denote the passage between the island 
of Sumatra and the Malay peninsula, calling it Boghdz Malaca, or 
Boghdz Singafura. I notice that Crawfurd, in his Descriptive Diction- 
ary, sub voce Archipelago, remarks that Varthema underrates the 
breadth of the Strait ; but he quotes our traveller from Bamusio as de- 
scribing the fiumara to be only " about fifteen miles broad." (Id. sub 
voce Malacca Straits.) Crawfurd himself says in one place, that the 
town of Malacca is " washed by the Straits which bear its name, and 
which are here about five-and-twenty miles broad ;" and in another, that 
" the town of Malacca is distant from the nearest shore of Sumatra 
about forty-five miles," (Id. 'sub voce Malacca, pp. 238, 249;) the ap- 
pi'oximate measurements being apparently given, in the one case, between 
Malacca and the island of Pvupat directly opposite, and in the other 
between Malacca and the mainland of Sumatra. 

3 " Of the time in which the Muhammedan religion was embraced by 
the people of Malacca, there is no precise statement. The Malay ac- 
count assigns the event to the reign of a prince called Sultan Muhani- 


on the mainland and pays tribute to the king of Cini, 1 who 
caused this place to be built about eighty years ago, because 
there is a good port there, which is the principal port of the 
main ocean. And, truly I believe, that more ships arrive 
here than in any other place in the world, 3 and especially 
there come here all sorts of spices and an immense quantity 

raed Shah, who ascended the throne in 1276... The statement of De 
Barros respecting the conversion is as follows : — ' The greatness of 
Malacca induced the kings who followed Xaquem Darsa [Sekandar 
Shah,] to throw off their dependency on the kings of Siam, and this 
chiefly, since the time when induced by the Persians and Gujrati Moors, 
who came to Malacca and resided there, for the purpose of trade, from 
Gentiles to become converts to the sect of Muhammed.' " Crawfurd's 
Descriptive Dictionary of the Indian Islands, etc., p. 245. 

- If by Cini is meant Siam, the statement is corroborated, generally, 
by the learned researches of Mr. Crawfurd, who writes : — " The subjec- 
tion of Malacca to Siam seems, indeed, to be admitted by all parties. 
Four of the most northerly of the States of the Peninsula are still subject 
to it ; while a claim of supremacy is made for, at least, three more. 
The author of the Commentaries of Albuquerque, giving a greater ex- 
tension to Malacca than De Barros, thus describes it and its subjection 
to Siam : — ' The kingdom of Malacca on one side borders on Queda; and 
on the other, Pam [Pahang]. It has one hundred leagues of coast, and 
inland extends to a chain of mountains where it is parted from Siam, 
a breadth of ten leagues. All this land was anciently subject to Siam.'" 
Id., p. 244-5. 

" The port is an open road, but, notwithstanding, safe at all seasons, 
not being within the latitude of hurricanes, nor within the influence of 
either monsoons ; or, as the Commentaries of Albuquerque express it : — 
' it is the beginning of one monsoon, and the end of another.' " Id., 
p. 249. 

2 " The flourishing condition of Malacca, at the time it was attacked 
by the Portuguese, [five years after Varthema's visit,] has no doubt been 
much exaggerated ; but making every abatement, enough will remain 
to show that it was a place of considerable commercial importance, 
judging it by the ideas of the beginning of the 16th century, and by 
the peculiar value then attached to some of the commodities of which 
its trade consisted. ' In matters of trade,' says De Barros, ' the people 
[the Malays] are artful and expert, for, in general, they have to deal 
with such nations as the Javanese, the Siamese, the Peguans, the Ben- 
gallis, the (^uelijo [Chulias or Talugus,] Malabaris, Gujratis, Persians, 
and Arabians, with many other people, whose residence here has made 


of other merchandise. This country is not very fertile, 1 yet 
there is produced there grain, a little animal food, wood, 
birds like those of Calicut, excepting the parrots, which are 
better here than in Calicut. A great quantity of sandal- 
wood and of tin is found here. 2 There are also a great many 
elephants, horses, sheep, cows and buffalos, leopards and 
peacocks, in great abundance. A few fruits like those in 
Zeilan. It is not necessary to trade here in anything except- 
ing in spices and silken stuffs. 3 These people are olive- 

them very sagacious. Moreover, the city is also populous, owing to the 
ships which resort to it from the country of the Chijs [Chinese], the 
Lequios [Japanese], the Lucoes [people of Luzon in the Philippines], 
and other nations of the Orient. All these people bring so much wealth, 
both of the East and the West, that Malacca seems a centre at which 
are assembled all the natural productions of the earth, and all the arti- 
ficial ones of man. On this account, although situated in a barren land, 
it is, through an interchange of commodities, more amply supplied with 
everything than the countries themselves from which they come.'" Id. 
p. 245. 

1 Varthema's remark respecting the comparative infertility of the 
country, is confirmed by De Barros in the preceding note, and fully cor- 
roborated by Crawfurd, who says : — i: It is in vain to plead for the un- 
productiveness of Malacca the maladministration of former national 
adminstrations, for Malacca has been, with little interruption, nearly 
sixty years under British rule, while Arracan, in less than half the 
time, under the same government, competing with its immediate neigh- 
bour Bengal, has become one of the principal granaries of India." 
Id,, p. 239 

s I infer from Crawfurd that sandal-wood, if it exists there at all, is 
produced in very small cpuantities in the territory of Malacca, the chief 
places of its growth being several of the islands of the Malay Archi- 
pelago, but more especially Timur and Sumba, which latter takes its 
European name of Sandal-wood Island from it. 

In 1847, the cpaantity of tin obtained from the mines in the Malacca 
territory was about five thousand cwts., and it is yearly increasing. Id. 
p. 240. 

3 Meaning, I presume, that these were the most marketable commodi- 
ties. With regard to silk, Crawfurd says : " It may probably have been 
first made known to the inhabitants of the Indian Islands by the Hin- 
dus, if we are to judge from its Sanscrit name ; but iu all times known 
to us, they have been supplied with this article raw and wrought by the 



coloured, with long hair. Their dress is after the fashion 
of Cairo. They have the visage broad, the eye round, the 
nose compressed. It is not possible to go about the place 
here when it is dark, because people are killed like dogs, 1 
and all the merchants who arrive here go to sleep in their 
ships. The inhabitants of this city are of the nation of 
Giavai. The king keeps a governor to administer justice 
for foreigners, but those of the country take the law into 
their own hands, and they are the worst race that was ever 

Chinese, the original inventors of silk -/'...nevertheless, he adds : — " that 
from the raw silk of China, the Malays and Javanese always wove, and 
still continue to do so, some strong and often rich domestic fabrics suited 
to their own peculiar tastes. Id., p. 394. 

1 Crawfurd describes the Malays as a brown-complexioned, lank- 
haired people, of a squat form, with high cheek-bones, large mouth, 
and flattened nose. With regard to costume, I had frequent oppor- 
tunities, during my long residence at Aden, of seeing many Malay mer- 
chants on their way to Meccah, who were generally dressed like the 
same class in Syria and Egypt. As to character, the Malays in general 
bear a very questionable one, and are notorious for their vindictiveness. 
Barbosa describes them as " very skilful and exquisite workmen ; but 
very malevolent and treacherous, rarely speaking the truth, and ready 
to commit any outrage and to die. ..There are some of them also, if at- 
tacked with any serious illness, make a vow to God that if restored to 
health, they will voluntarily select a more honourable death in His 
service. On recovery, they leave their houses with a dagger in hand, 
and rush through the streets, where they kill as many persons as they 
can, men, women, and children, insomuch that they seem like mad dogs. 
These are called Amnios, and when seen in this frenzy, all begin to 
cry out, Amnios ! Amnios ! in order that the people may be on their 
guard, who with knives and lances immediately put them to death." 
(Ramusio, vol. i. p. 318.) Amnios, I take to be a corruption of the 
native amuJc, and the origin of our " running a-muck," which, according 
to Crawfurd, is a phrase introduced into our language from the Malay, 
the latter word signifying a furious and reckless onset. — " Running 
a-muck with private parties is often the result of a restless determina- 
tion to exact revenge for some injury or insult ; but it also results, not less 
frequently, from a monomania taking this particular form, and originat- 
ing in disorders of the digestive organs. The word and the practice are 
not confined to the Malays, but extend to all the people and languages 
of the Archipelago that have obtained a certain amount of civilization." 
Desc. Diet., p. 12. 


created on earth. When the king wishes to interfere with 
them, they say that they will disinhabit the land, because 
they are men of the sea. 1 The air here is very temper- 

1 Considering that Vartheuia was the first European to describe 
Malacca, and that his stay there did not extend beyond a few days, it is 
surprising to find how strikingly correct his brief remarks are, not only 
as regards the natural objects which were open to his inspection, but 
others also which were less obvious, connected with the past history of 
the people and their actual civil condition at the period of his visit. 
The statement that Malacca was inhabited by a nation of Javanese is 
corroborated by the learned researches of Crawfurd, who says : " On one 
point, all parties seem to agree, that not only the founders of Malacca, 
but even of Singapore, were Javanese and not Malays ; for even the 
Malayan account is substantially to this effect, since it brings the emi- 
grants who established themselves at Singapore from Palembang, which 
was a Javanese settlement." Id. p. 243. 

Equally remarkable is our traveller's notice of two distinct classes 
among the Malays, one given to trade and agriculture and subject to an 
organized government, the other a wild race acknowledging no superior 
authority, and who either felt themselves strong enough to resist any 
attempt to impose it by expelling the more civilized community from 
the country, or who did not care to reside on land because they were 
" men of the sea ;" for Varthema's words — " Et quando il re si vol 
mettere fra loro, essi dicono che deshabitaranno la terra perche sono 
homini de mare," — will bear both interpretations. How surprisingly 
this account is corroborated by Crawfurd, except that the latter makes 
three sections of the Malays, will be seen by the following extract : — 
" The Malay nation may be divided naturally into three classes : the 
civilized Malays, or those who possess a written language, and have 
made a decent progress in the useful art3 ; the gipsy-like fishermen, 
called the Sea People; and the rude half savages, who, for the most 
part, live precariously on the produce of the forests. The civilized 
Malays consist of the inhabitants of the eastern side of Sumatra, of 
much of the interior of that island, and of those of the sea-boards of 
Borneo and the Malay Peninsula. The sea-gipsies are to be found 
sojourning from Sumatra to the Moluccas. ..The only habitations of this 
people are their boats, and they live exclusively by the produce of the 
sea, or by the robberies they commit on it. The most usual name by 
which they are known is orang-laut, literally, 'men of the sea'. ..The 
rude wandering class, speaking the Malay language, is found in the 
interior of the Malay Peninsula, in Sumatra, and in the islands lying 
between them, but in no other part of the Archipelago. "...These three 
classes of Malays existed near three centuries and a half ago, when the 



ute. 1 The Christians who were in our company gave us to 
understand that we ought not to remain long here because 
they are an evil race. Wherefore we took a junk and went 
towards Sumatra to a city called Pider, which is distant from 
the mainland eighty leagues, or thereabouts. 


They say that in this district there is the best port of the 
whole island, which I have already told you is in circura- 

Portuguese first arrived in the waters of the Archipelago, just as they 
do at the present day. That people describes them as having existed 
also for two centuries and a half before that event, as without douht 
they did in times far earlier. Thus De Barros describes the first class of 
Malays as ' men living by trade, and the most cultivated of these parts ;' 
the second as ' a vile people,' whose ' dwelling was more on the sea than 
the land,' and who ' lived by fishing and robbery ;' and the third as 
' half savages' (quasi meios salvages,) while the Malay language was 
common to all of them." Id., p. 250. 

1 " The climate of Malacca, as to temperature, is such as might be 
expected in a country not more than one hundred miles from the 
equator, lying along the sea shore, — hot and moist. The thermometer 
in the shade ranges from 72° to 84° of Fahrenheit, seldom being so low 
as the first of these, and not often higher than the last. The range of 
the barometer is only from 20.8 to 30.3 inches. Notwithstanding con- 
stant heat, much moisture, and many swamps, the town at least is 
remarkable for its salubrity." Id., p. 239. 

' 2 Mr. Crawfurd makes Varthema " the first writer who gives the name 
[of this island] as we now write it," which remark is only correct if re- 
stricted to the modern orthography of the word ; for Sumatra is undoubt- 
edly the island where Nicold de' Conti was detained a year, and which he 
calls Sciamuthera. But although Conti was most probably the first to 
make known the name to our continent, I deem it tolerably certain that 
it was the island visited by Ibn Batuta about a.d. 1330, which he desig- 
nates Jdivah, but the capital of which, situated four miles from the 
coast, he calls Shumatrah or Smnatrah. Our Java, to which he subse- 
quently proceeded, he distinguishes by the name of Mul-Jdioah. This 
inference is corroborated by the fact that the former place was then under 
a Muhammedan king called Ez-Zahir Jamal ed-Din, whereas, according 


ference 4,500 miles. In my opinion, which agrees also with 
what many say, I think that it is Taprobana, in which there 

to Crawfurd, though several attempts had been made between 1358 and 
1460 to convert the Javanese, it was not till 1478 that the Muham- 
medans succeeded in capturing the capital, and establishing their own 
power and faith ;" which further agrees with Ibn Batuta's account of 
MulJdwah, who calls it " the first part of the territory of the infidels." 
(See Lee's Translation, pp. 199-205 ; and Crawfurd's Desc. Diet., 
p. 185.) As Ibn Batiita was proceeding from Bengal to China, and 
appears to have touched at the Andaman or Nicobar Islands on his 
voyage from the former coast, I think it highly probable that the present 
Achin was the place which he visited in the island of Sumatra ; for that 
town lies about two miles from the shore, and the Achinese are stated to 
have been converted to Islam as early as the year 1204 And if Achin 
was also the city where Conti was detained, which is not unlikely, his 
designation of it strikingly accords with Ibn Batiita, for he applies that 
of Sciamuthera to the city as well as to the island, describing the former 
as "a very noble emporium." Coupling these ideas with the following 
quotation from Crawfurd, I think it by no means improbable that 
Shumatrah, or some modification of that word, was the prevailing name 
of Achin (and, perhaps, of the islaud also,) in Ibn Batuta's time, and 
that its present name is of more recent date : — " The native name is cor- 
rectly Acheh ; but this word, which means a ' wood-leech,' does not, 
although naturalized, belong to any of the Malayan languages, but to the 
Tellnga or Telugn of the Coromandel coast.'''' {Id., p. 2.) I note, however, 
that the same author conjectures that the word Sutnatra is of Sanscrit or 
Hindu origin, probably from Samudra, the sea or ocean {Id., p. 414.) 

Respecting Marco Polo's visit, Mr. Crawfurd has the following observa- 
tions : — " It is remarkable that the name of Sumatra had not reached 
Marco Polo, although he was six months wind-bound at the island, and 
in communication with the natives. That of Java, the only large terri- 
tory of the Archipelago, familiarly called an island, by the natives, had 
done so ; and he called Sumatra, knowing it to be an island but ignorant 
of its relative extent, Java Minor." {Id., p. 414.) Whereon I venture to 
suggest, that although Marco Polo designates Sumatra, the compass of 
which he approximately estimated at 2,000 miles, by the name of Java 
the Less, he nevertheless describes it as comprising eight kingdoms, six 
of which he visited, and one of these latter, namely, that where he was 
detained for several months, he calls Samara. That word, as it stands, 
approaches very nearly the orthography of the present name, and by the 
simple addition of the letter t, which may have been omitted by an oversight 
in the original manuscript or in the first copies, we have Samatra in full. 
It is further deserving of notice that the same traveller apparently makes 


are three crowned kings who are Pagans, and their faith, their 
manner of living, dress, and customs, are the same as in Tar- 

Samara the chief kingdom in the island, for he says of its people : — 
" Ilanno re grande e potente, e chiainansi per il Gran Can." Ramusio, 
vol. ii, p. 52. 

Varthema greatly exaggerates the extent of the island, which is 
" about 1,000 miles in length, its extreme ends being its narrowest parts, 
and its centre its broadest. Its area is reckoned at 128,560 geographical 
square miles." (Desc. Diet., p. 414.) Prior to the publication of his book, 
our traveller appears to have had some discussions with the learned men 
of Europe, consequent on his own discovery, respecting the ancient 
geography of the island, which led him, as it did many others, to identify 
it with the Taprobana of Ptolemy. The locality of that famous island 
was a vexed question at the end of the sixteenth century, for Patavino 
in describing Sumatra writes : — " Hanc Insulam antiquorum Taprobanam 
fuisse omnes pene auctores sentiunt, licet aliqui niagnre eruditionis viri 
ipsam Auream fuisse Chersonesum putent, ac ob id antiquis ceu penin- 
sulam creditam fuisse." And, again, under the head of Ceylon : — 
"ZEILAN verd insula prasstantissima est, quee...antiquam fuisse Ptole- 
mrci Taprobanam Andreas Corsalus et Joannes Barrius cum plerisque alijs 
censent; Mercator ver5, cui magis in hac re fidem prtestamus, putat esse 
Ptolenuei Nanigerim." Geographia, pp. 26. 

With respect to the government of Sumatra, it has been already men- 
tioned that Marco Polo divided the island into eight kingdoms, one of 
which was Felich, where the inhabitants of the coast had embraced 
Muhammedanism, " by frequent trade with the Saracens ; but those who 
dwelt in the mountains were still like beasts." Varthema diminished 
the number to " iii Re di corona," which probably comprised only those 
of the principal states on the eastern side ; Odoardo Barbosa says the is- 
land has " molti regni di quali il principal e Pedir della banda di tra- 
montana ;" while De Barros enumerates no less than twenty-nine on the 
sea board alone, of which Pedir, then an independent sovereignty, is one. 
Patavino sums up the information acquired on this subject up to the 
end of the sixteenth century in these words : — " Scribunt quidam univer- 
sam hanc insulam in quatuor regna esse divisam : alii in decern, alii 
autem in 29. ex quibus nota sunt tantummodo decern: nempe Regnuui 
Pedir, quod caoteris prsestat ; Pazem seu Pacem ; Achem seu Acem ; 
Campar ; Menancabo, quod est fundamentum divitiarum, universae in- 
sula?, cum in eo sint minerse auri opulentissinice ; et regnum Zunde : et 
haec quidem sex regna sunt circa littus ipsius insula?, ac a Mauris occu- 
pata olim fuere." (Id., p. 265.) The last remark agrees with De Barros 
;is (pioted by Crawfurd : — " The inhabitants of the coast follow the sect 
of Muhammed ;" nevertheless, Varthema's account, which makes some 


nassari, and the wives also are burnt alive. The colour of 
these inhabitants is almost white, and they have the face broad, 
and the eyes round and green. 1 Their hair is long, the nose 
broad and flat, and they are of small stature. Here justice 
is strictly administered, as in Calicut. 2 Their money is gold, 
and silver, and tin, all stamped. Their golden money has 
on one side a devil, on the other there is something resem- 
bling a chariot drawn by elephants : the same on the silver 

of the sovereigns Hindu by religion, and more especially the reigning 
king of Pedir, is too circumstantial to be set aside by any general de- 
scriptions of an island of such vast extent, and comparatively so little 
known to the best Portuguese historians of that age. Moreover, Var- 
thema had become well versed in the externals, at least, of Muhammedan- 
ism, and was not likely to confound the observances of Paganism with 
those of Islam. In the absence, therefore, of any definite proof to the 
contrary, I see no reason to discredit this part of his narrative, more 
especially as we have Crawfurd's authority for believing that " the 
people of Sumatra had certainly adopted a kind of Hinduism, and this 
is sufficiently attested by an examination of their languages, and even 
by a few monuments and inscriptions." Desc. Diet., p. 419. 

1 He Barros, as quoted by Crawfurd, says : " The people of the coast, 
as well as of the interior of the island, are all of a yellowish-brown colour 
(baco), having flowing hair, are well made, of a goodly aspect, and do not 
resemble the Javanese, although so near to them." Id., p. 419. He 
does not mention the " green eyes." 

2 The same remark is made of the country by Hamilton: — "No place 
in the world punishes theft with greater severity than Atcheen, and yet 
robberies and murders are more frequent there than in any other place. 
For the first fault, if the theft does not amount to a tayel value, it is but 
the loss of a hand or a foot, and the criminal may choose which he will 
part with ; and, if caught a second time, the same punishment and loss 
is used ; but the third time, or if they steal five tayel in value, that 
crime entitles them to souling or impaling alive. When their hand or foot 
is to be cut off, they have a block with a broad hatchet fixed in it, with 
the edge upwards, on which the limb is laid, and struck on with a 
wooden mallet, till the amputation is made, and they have a hollow 
bamboo, or Indian cane, ready to put the stump in, and stopped about 
with rags or moss, to keep the blood from coming out, and are set in a 
conspicuous place for travellers to gaze on, who generally bestow a little 
spittle in a pot, being what is produced by the mastication of beetel, 
and that serves them instead of salve to cure their wounds." Pinker- 
ton, vol. viii. p. 440". 


and tin money. 1 Of the silver coin ten go to a ducat, and of 
those of tin, twenty-five. Elephants in immense quantities 
are produced here, which are the largest I ever saw. These 
people are not warlike, but attend to their merchandise, and 
are very great friends of foreigners. 

1 Crawfurd says that prior to the arrival of the Europeans, the natives 
of the Archipelago generally had no other coin than small bits of copper, 
brass, tin, or zinc, though he subjoins that "the Javanese appear to have 
coined some of their own money, as we find from many examples exca- 
vated from their own temples and other places. These contain impres- 
sions of scenic figures, such as arc still represented in their dramas, 
called wayang or shadows, but having no date, and, indeed, no written 
characters, until after their adoption of Mahommedanism," which was 
not till towards the end of the fifteenth century. He further excepts 
Achin, the state adjoining, (which probably comprised Pedir in Varthe- 
ma's time,) and remarks as follows : — " The only native country of the 
Archipelago in which a coin of the precious metals seems ever to have 
been coined is Achin. This is of gold, of the weight of nine grains, and 
of about the value of \±d. sterling... All the coins of this description 
which have been made are inscribed with Arabic characters, and bear the 
names of the sovereigns under whom they were struck, so that they are 
comparatively modern." (Desc. Diet., p. 286.) As a Muhammedan king 
was reigning in Sumatra when Ibn Batiita visited that island, similar 
coins may have been current then ; but, be that as it may, Varthema's 
account fully proves that such " stamped" money existed at the time of 
his visit, and I see no reason for doubting that it comprised, as he states, 
coins of silver and of tin, as well as of gold. It is by no means impro- 
bable, however, that some of the coined money at Achin was imported, 
through the ordinary transactions of trade, from different parts of India ; 
but I have searched Marsden's Numismata Orientalia in vain for a counter- 
part of the Sumatran "device — a chariot drawn by elephants — on any 
of the early Indian coinage. That Indian coins had obtained a certain 
degree of circulation in the Archipelago at this period, may be inferred 
from Varthema's statement regarding Banda, one of the Nutmeg Islands : 
— " La moneta corre cpui alia usanza dl Calicut.'''' See the chapter " Con- 
cerning the Islands of Bandan." 





In this country of Pider 1 there grows a very great quan- 
tity of pepper, and of long pepper which is called Molaga. 
This said kind of pepper is larger than that which comes 
here to us, and is very much whiter, and within it is hollow, 
and is not so biting as that of ours, and weighs very little, 
and is sold here in the same manner as cereals are sold with 
us. 2 And you must know that in this port there are laden 
with it every year eighteen or twenty ships, all of which go 

1 Pider, or " Pedir, is the name of a Malay state on the eastern side 
of Sumatra, and comprising that portion of the sea-board of the island 
which extends from Diamond Point, the Tanjung-parlak of the Malays, 
to Achin...It was the first spot in the Archipelago at which the Portu- 
guese touched, and they found it carrying on some foreign trade, being 
frequented by ships from different parts of the continent of India. At 
present it is a place of no moment, except for its export of the areca-nut 
and a little pepper which is carried to the British settlement of Penang. 
The principal town, bearing the same name, is situated on a small river, 
a little east of a headland, which is in north latitude 5° 29' and east 
longitude 96°." Id., 330-1. 

2 Being uncertain whether this was the Piper longum of botanists, I 
consulted Mr. Bennett of the British Museum, whose kindness I have 
already had occasion to acknowledge, and append his note in reply : — 
" There can be no doubt that the second kind of pepper referred to by 
Varthema is the same as that which we now call long pepper. His 
account exactly tallies with it in every respect, and is singularly correct, 
as indeed most of his descriptions are." Crawfurd says : " This com- 
modity is probably a native of Java, although now grown in other coun- 
tries of the Archipelago," and then remarks : " it is singular that it is 
not named by Barbosa, but there can be little doubt but that it must 
have been an article of trade in his time." (Desc. Diet., p. 335.) It is 
mentioned by Pigafetta, Barbosa's companion, as growing in one of the 
Banda islands, and he describes it thus : — " The long pepper grows on a 
plant or tree like the ivy, that is, it is flexible, and rests on other trees, 
the fruit hangs on the stem, and the leaf is like that of the mulberry. It 
is called IvZi." (Ramusio, vol. i. p. 368.) Conti also enumerates 2 )e pe 
lungo among the productions of Sumatra. Id., p. 339. 


to Cathai, because tlicy say that the extreme cold begins 
there. The tree which produces this pepper produces it 
long, but its vine is larger, and the leaf broader and softer, 
than that which grows in Calicut. An immense quantity of 
silk is produced in this country, a great deal is also made in 
the forests without being cultivated by any one. This, it is 
true, is not very good. 1 A great quantity of benzoin is also 
produced here, which is the gum of a tree." Some say, for 
I have not seen it myself, that it grows at a considerable 
distance from the sea, on the mainland. 


Inasmuch as it is the variety of objects which most de- 
lights and invites man, as well to read as to understand, it 
has therefore appeared to me well to add that of which I 

1 It is singular that a similar statement is made by De Barros, who 
in describing the productions of Sumatra says : " It produces also silk 
in such cpuantity that there are cargoes of it sent to many parts of 
India ;" whereon Crawfurd remarks : — " This is probably an error on 
the part of that usually reliable writer. I am not even aware that wild 
silk is produced in any of the insular forests such as it is found to be in 
many of those of Hindustan." The same author asserts, indeed, that 
"the culture of the mulberry and the rearing of the silk- worm have 
never been practised by the natives of the Archipelago, whether from 
the unsuitableness of this branch of industry to the climate, or to the 
state of society, is not ascertained." {Desc. Diet., p. 394.) The dis- 
crepancy is a wide one, and I can suggest nothing to reconcile the con- 
tradictory statements. It is noticeable, however, that Odoardo Barbosa 
does not enumerate silk among his list of the productions of Sumatra. 

2 " Benzoin, the resin of the Styrax benzoni, obtained by wounding 
the bark. The plant, which is of moderate size, is an object of cultiva- 
tion, the manner of culture being from the seed. The trees are ripe for 
the production of the resin at about seven years old, and the plant is the 
peculiar product of the islands of Borneo and Sumatra." Crawfurd 
thinks that it may be the malabathrum oi the ancients. {Id., p. 50.) 
Benzoin is called by the Arabs Bakh-khi tr Jdwl, Java incense. 


have real certainty by my own experience. Wherefore 
you must know that neither benzoin nor aloes-wood comes 
much into Christian ports, and therefore you must under- 
stand that there are three sorts of aloes-wood. The first 
and most perfect sort is called Calampat, and which does 
not grow in this island, but comes from a city called Sarnau, 
which (as the Christians our companions said) is near to 
their city, and here this first sort grows. The second sort is 
called Loban, which comes from a river. The name of the 
third sort is called BocJwr. 1 The said Christians also said 

1 The Lignum, aloes or Agila, the Eagle- wood of commerce. Barbosa 
mentions it under the two former names, and Crawfurd in describing it 
says : " There can be no doubt but that the perfumed wood is the result 
of disease in the tree that yields it, produced by the thickening of its 
sap into a gum or resin. ..It is found in the greatest perfection in the 
mountainous country to the east of the Gulf of Siam, including Cam- 
boja and Cochin-China. It is found, however, although of inferior 
quality, as far north as Sylhet, in Bengal, and as far south as the Malay 
Peninsula and Sumatra." (Desc. Diet., p. 6, 7.) In his earlier History 
of the Indian Archipelago, (vol. i. p. 519,) he had remarked of the wood 
in cpuestion that " if it be a native of the Indian islands, the countries 
which produce it have not been ascertained ;" but his later researches 
corroborate Varthema both as regards the existence of the tree in Su- 
matra, and his other statement that the best quality of the perfumed 
wood, the Calampat or Kalambak, was of foreign growth. The latter I 
take to be the 'Ood el-Kamdrl of the Two Muhammedan Travellers, 
(Pinkerton," vol. vii. p. 208,) and of Ibn Batuta, (Lee's Translation, 
p. 201,) who both make that quality to come from Komari in China. 
I notice, however, that Castenheda, as quoted by Crawfurd, describes 
the Kalambak as indigenous to Sumatra. He writes : — " It [Campar, 
on the eastern side of the island,] has nothing but forests which yield 
aloes-wood, called in India Calambuco. The trees which produce it are- 
large, and when they are old they are cut down, and the aloes-wood 
taken from them, which is the heart of the tree, and the outer part is 
agila. Both these woods are of great price, but especially the Calam- 
buco, which is rubbed in the hands, yielding an agreeable fragrance ; 
the agila does so when burned.'" Desc. Diet., p. 7. 

The names of the other two qualities mentioned by Varthema are 
Arabic, and merely conventional, for lubdn means frankincense, and 
bahh-hhur incense generally. Ibn Batuta apparently specifies the same 
inferior kinds, and uses the word lubdn, in describing the aromatic pro- 


tli at the reason the said Calampat does not come to us is 
this, that in Gran Cathai, and in the kingdom of Cini and 
M acini, 1 and Samau and Giava, they have a much greater 

ducts of Java : — " There is only the Inbun of Java, camphor, cloves, and 
'Ood Hindi,'''' Indian aloes-wood. (Lee's Trans., pp. 201-2.) 

From Castanheda's account of the Kalambak, and the experiment of 
its fragrance when simply held in the warm hand, as described by Var- 
thema in the next chapter, I am inclined to infer with him that that 
quality seldom finds its way to the westward. The 'Ood is generally 
used as a pastille by the Arabs, and their poets, ancient and modern, 
who are fond of dilating on the excellency of the wood, and ransack 
their imaginations to multiply its suggestive imagery, mostly associate 
the perfume with the action of fire. The following is nearly a literal 
translation of an Arabic couplet which I found on the fireplace of an 
old khan in the district of Aleppo. For the English versification I am 
indebted to the kindness of my friend the Rev. P. G. Hill, rector of 
St. Edmund the King and Martyr : — 

" When God would bring man's virtue to the light, 
He sets against him Envy's tongue of spite : 
Just as the flames the Aloes-wood surround, 
Ere its delicious fragrance can be found." 

The same pretty idea, clothed in similar language, occurs in Gregory 
the Great's Morals on the Book of Job : — " For as unguents, unless they 
be stirred, are never smelt far off, and as aromatic scents spread not 
their fragrance except they be burned, so the Saints in their tribula- 
tions make known all the sweetness that they have of their virtues." 
Library of the Fathers, vol. xviii. p. 18. 

1 Sin MdcMn, or Sin wa-M&chtn, and sometimes the word Shi alone, 
with the prefixed article, Es-Shi, are used synonymously by the Arabs 
of the present day to signify the Empire of China generally. I have 
frequently endeavoured to ascertain from masters of Arab ships whether 
they attached any definite limits to the country or countries designated 
by the double name, but the result was unsatisfactory : some main- 
tained that it indicated the entire territory to the north of Siam ; others 
that Sin was specially applicable to Siam and Cochin-China, and MdcMn 
to China including Tartary ; and others, again, that MdcMn was Siam, 
and Sin, China. Conti, who most probably derived his nomenclature 
from native traders, does not mention either Shi or China, but says that 
the province of Ava was called Macinus by the inhabitants, and styles 
the country beyond, towards the north, Cathay. Nikitin, who wrote by 
report only, speaks of the seaports of Cheen and Marfan as very large, 
and supplies a few notices rendering it probable that Siam and China 


abundance of gold than we have. They also say that there 
are much greater lords there than there are in our parts, 
and that they delight more than we do in those two sorts of 
perfumes, and that after their death a very great quantity 
of gold is expended in these perfumes ; and for this reason 
these excellent sorts do not come into our parts. In Samau 
they are worth ten ducats per pound, because there is very 
little of them. 

are meant, but nothing further. D'Herbelot gives a clue to the origin 
of the conjoined names, and notices the contradictory opinions, much as 
I have stated them, which had obtained regarding the countries which 
they respectively indicated. After remarking that Sin or Chin, (China,) 
according to the Persians and other Orientals, took its name from the 
eldest sou of Japhet, he adds : — " Tchin eut pour fils ain6 Matchin, et il 
suffira dedire icy, que lesOrientaux, en parlant de la Chine en general, l'ap- 
pellent Tchin et Matchin, de meme que pour exprimer la Tartarie entiere, 
ils se serveut des termes d' Jagioug' et Magioug', qui sont le Gog et Magog 
de l'Ecriture Sainte. II y a pourtant des Geographes qui pretendent, 
qu'il faut entendre par le mot Tchin, la Chine Septentrionale, que 
plusieurs croyent etre la meme que la Khatha ou Katha'i, et par celuy de 
Matchin, la Chine Meridionale, en y comprenant la Cochin-Chine, la 
Tunquin, e la Royaume d'Anan avec ceux de Siam et la Pegu." {Bib. 
Orient, sub voce SIN.) This is satisfactory as far as it goes, but it leaves 
untouched another point suggested by the two names as used by the 
early European travellers above quoted, and their prevalence among the 
Arabs and Persians at the present day. Neither Suleiman in the ninth 
century, nor Edrisi in the twelfth, nor Marco Polo in the thirteenth, nor 
Ibn Batuta before the middle of the fourteenth, all of whom describe 
China as Sin, ever mention the word Matchin. There must be some 
reason for this singular fact, though I am unable to suggest any. I 
note, however, that D'Herbelot, in his article on SIN, remarks that 
" the author of the Humaioun Nameh, which is the book of Kalilah and 
Dimnah, says that Homaiounfal was formerly a powerful king of Tchin 
and Matchin.'''' I have searched carefully through De Sacy's Arabic 
version of those famous fables without discovering the latter word, and 
conclude, therefore, that the reference is to some annotations of Ali 
Chelebi, who translated the Kalilah wa-Dimnah into Turkish in the 
beginning of the tenth century, and dedicated it to Suleiman I., under 
the title of llumaydn- Nameh. 



The aforesaid Christians made us see an experiment with 
the two kinds of perfume. One of them had a little of both 
sorts. The Calampat was about two ounces, and he made 
my companion hold it in his hand as long as he could say 
four times, " Miserere mei, Deus," holding it firmly in his 
closed hand. Then he made him open his hand. Truly, I 
never smelt such an odour as that was, which exceeded all 
our perfumes. Then he took a piece of benzoin as large as 
a walnut, and he took of that [the Calampat] which grows in 
Sarnau about half a pound, and had it placed in two cham- 
bers in vases with fire within. In truth I tell you, that that 
little produced more odour, and a greater softness and sweet- 
ness, than two pounds of any other kind would have done. 
It is impossible to describe the excellence of those two kinds 
of scents and perfumes. So that you have now heard the 
reason why these said things do not come to our parts. 
There also grows here a very great quantity of lacca} for 
making red colour, and the tree of this is formed like our 
trees which produce walnuts. 


In this country I saw the most beautiful works of art I 
ever saw in my life, that is, some boxes worked in gold, 
which they gave for two ducats each, which, in truth, with 
us, would be valued at one hundred ducats. 2 Again, I saw 

1 "Lacca, in Malay, Laka, the Tanarius major, a tree with a rose- 
coloured wood, a native of Sumatra, used in dyeing and pharmacy. It 
is an article of considerable native trade, and is chiefly exported to 
China." Crawfurd's Disc. Diet., p. 204. 

2 " Gold ornaments of considerable beauty are made by most of the 


here in one street about five hundred money-changers, and 
these because a very great number of merchants come to 
this city, where they carry on a very extensive traffic. 1 For 
the sleeping of these people, there are good beds of cotton, 
covered with silk and cotton sheets. In this island they 
have an extreme abundance of timber, and they make here 
great ships which they call ghtnchi, which carry three 
masts, and have a prow before and behind, with two rudders 
before and two behind. And when they navigate through 
any archipelago, (for here there is a great sea like a canal,) 
while sailing, the wind will sometimes come in their face, 
they immediately lower the sail, and quickly, without turn- 
ing, hoist sail on the other mast, and turn back. And you 
must know that they are the most active men I have ever 
met with. They are also very great swimmers, and excel- 
lent masters of the art of making fire-works. 2 

civilized nations of the Archipelago. The neck-chains of Manilla are 
examples of very delicate workmanship, and the filagree work of the 
Malays of Sumatra is still more remarkable. In all these cases, what 
is most striking is the beauty of the work compared with the rudeness 
and simplicity of the workmen and their tools." Id., p. 145. 

1 This remark undesignedly confirms Varthema's former statement 
respecting the coins which were current at Sumatra. (See note on p. 
232 ante.) The money-changers were probably foreigners, natives of 
India, like those at Malacca, where Crawfurd says " a colony of the 
Ilindus of Telingana still exists, whose profession it is to try gold by the 
touch and to refine it." Id., p. 287. 

2 "Fuochi artificiati." Crawfurd has collected abundant evidence to 
prove that fire-arms were in use amoDg the more advanced Malay 
nations when the Portuguese first arrived in the Archipelago, and he 
concludes that their knowledge of artillery was communicated by the 
Arabs, who had acquired it from the Christians. If such was the case, 
it must have been from the Arabs of the Persian Gulf, for, as has been 
shown in a former note, (p. 65,) those of Yemen were generally un- 
acquainted with fire-arms when the Egyptians invaded that country in 
1515. I think Mr. Crawfurd's conclusion very probable, but I venture 
to question one of the premises as contained in the following quotation : 
— "The name by which fire-arms are visually called [among the Malays] 
is btidil, a general one for any missile, and mariam, which is Arabic, and 





The habitations of the said place consist of walled houses 
of stone, and they are not very high, and a great many of 
them are covered with the shells of sea turtles, 1 because they 

in that language signifies 'the Virgin Mary,' which would seem to imply 
that the knowledge of artillery was derived by the Arabs themselves 
from the Christians, as without doubt it was." Mariam does, indeed, 
mean Mary, not in Arabic only, but in several other Oriental languages, 
.and Mussulmans are as familiar with the name through the Koran as 
Christians are through the Bible. Moreover, as the word is certainly 
never used by the Arabs in Arabia or Egypt to designate fire-arms, I 
can only suppose it to be a conventional term confined to those residing 
in the Archipelago, and, as such, can hardly be adduced in support of 
Mr. Crawfurd's hypothesis. Varthema's notice of the skill displayed by 
the people of Sumatra in the preparation of " fuochi artificiati" at this 
early period is corroborated by the same learned author's remarks on 
that subject: — "A knowledge of gunpowder must have been, at least, as 
early in the Indian islands as that of cannon. It is not improbable that 
it may have been even earlier known through the Chinese, for the 
manufacture of fire-works [is] known to the Malays under the name of 
Mdrchtln, a word of which the origin is not traceable. The principal 
ingredients of gunpowder are sufficiently abundant over many parts of 
the Archipelago, and known by native names, sanddwa being the name 
of saltpetre, and bdlirang or waliramj, of sulphur." Desc. Diet., p. 22. 

1 Conti merely describes the houses at Sumatra as being very low, 
but Barbosa says that all the cities of the kingdoms in the island were 
built of straw, which contradicts Varthema, unless the latter refers to 
some locality unknown to Barbosa. I have discovered nothing in the 
accounts of the early European travellers to confirm the use made of 
the shell as mentioned in the text ; but it is a well known fact that 
turtles measuring from five to six feet are found in the seas of the 
Indian Archipelago, and Conti had heard that some of the churches 
belonging to the Christians at Cathay were constructed entirely of 
tortoise-shell. (See India in the Fifteenth Cent., ii. 33.) There is 
nothing improbable, however, in Varthema's statement, and its co- 
incidence with the accounts of the ancient Greek and Roman authors is 
most striking. Mr. R. II. Major's learned researches on this subject 
deserve to be quoted in full. Referring to the enormous tortoise 
described by Sinbad in the Arabian Nights as measuring twenty cubits 


are found here in great quantities, and in my time I saw- 
one weighed which weighed one hundred and three pounds. 
I also saw two elephants' teeth which weighed three hun- 
dred and thirty-five pounds. And I saw, moreover, in this 
island, serpents very much larger than those of Calicut. Let 
us revert to our Christian companions, who were desirous of 
returning to their country : wherefore they asked us what 
was our intention, whether we wished to remain here, or to 
go farther on, or to return back. My companion answered 
them : " Since I am brought where the spices grow, I 
should like to see some kinds before I return back." They 
said to him : " No other spices grow here excepting those 
which you have seen." And he asked them where the nut- 
megs and the cloves grew. They answered : " That the 
nutmegs and mace grew in an island which was distant from 
there three hundred miles." We then asked them if we 
could go to that island in safety, that is, secure from robbers 
or corsairs. The Christians answered : " That secure from 
robbers we might go, but not from the chances of the sea ;" 
and they said that we could not go to the said island with 
that large ship. My companion said : " What means then 

in length and breadth, he remarks : — " The account of these animals is 
not to be attributed to a licentious exuberance of fancy in the Arabian 
author. He might have seen in iElian {De Natura Anim., 1. xvi. c. xvii.) 
that the tortoises, whose shells -were fifteen cubits in length, and 
sufficiently large to cover a house, were found near the island of 
Taprobane. Pliny and Strabo mention the same circumstance {Nat. 
Hist., 1. ix. c. 10) : they likewise turn them upside down, and say that 
men used to row in them as in a boat. {Geog., 1. xvi. 6.) Diodorus 
Siculus adds to their testimony, and assures us, on the faith of an his- 
torian, that the chelonophagi (shell-fish eaters, L. iv. c. 1) derived a 
threefold advantage from the tortoise, which occasionally supplied them 
with a roof to their houses, a boat, and a dinner." Mr. Major then 
proceeds to identify this colossal tortoise with the Colossochelys Atlas, 
the first fossil remains of which were discovered in the sub-Himalayahs 
by Dr. Falconer and Major Cautley in 1835, an idea of the vast size of 
which is afforded by the cast in the upper galleries of the British 
Museum. See Introduction to India in the Fifteenth Cent., pp. xliii-v. 



might there be for going to this island ?" " They answered : 
" That it was necessary to purchase a Chiampana" 1 that is, 
a small vessel, of which many are found there. My com- 
panion begged them to send for two, which he would buy. 
The Christians immediately found two, furnished with peo- 
ple whom they had there to manage them, with all things 
necessary and proper for such a voyage ; and they bargained 
for the said vessels, men, and necessary things, for four hun- 
dred partial, which were paid down by my companion, who 
then began to say to the Christians : " O my very dear 
friends, although we are not of your race, we are all sons of 
Adam and Eve, will you abandon me and this other my com- 
panion who is born in your faith?" "How in our faith? This 
companion of yours, is he not a Persian ?" He replied : "He 
is a Persian now, because he was purchased in the city of 
Jerusalem." The Christians hearing Jerusalem mentioned, 
immediately raised their hands to heaven, and then kissed the 
earth three times, and asked at what time it was that I was 
sold in Jerusalem. We replied : " That I was about fifteen 
years old." Then said they : " He ought to remember his 
country." Said my companion : " Truly he does recollect 
it, for I have had no other pleasure for many months but 
that of hearing of the things of his country, and he has 
taught me [the names of] all the members of the body and 
the names of the things to eat." Hearing this, the Christians 
said : " Our wish was to return to our country, which is 
distant from here three thousand miles ; for your sake and 
for that of your companion we are willing to come where 
you shall go ; and if your companion is willing to remain 
with us, we will make him rich, and if he shall desire to 
observe the Persian law, he shall be at liberty to do so." My 
companion replied : " I am much pleased with your com- 
pany, but it is out of order for him to remain with you, 
because I have given him a niece of mine to be his wife for 
1 See note 2 on p. 188 ante. 


the love which I bear him. 1 So that, if you are willing to 
come in company with us, I wish that you iirst take this 
present which I give you, otherwise I should never be 
satisfied." The good Christians answered : " That he might 
do as he pleased, for they were satisfied with everything." 
And so he gave them half a curia 2 of rubies, which were ten, 
of the value of five hundred partial? Two days afterwards 
the said Chiampane were ready, and we put on board many 
articles of food, especially the best fruits I ever tasted, and 
thus took our way towards the island called Bandan. 


In the course of the said journey we found about twenty 
islands, part inhabited and part not, and in the space of 

1 See p. 104 ante. 2 See note on p. 170 ante. 

3 See note on p. 130 ante. 

4 Bandan, the modern Banda, one of " the Banda or Nutmeg Islands, 
which consist of a group of mere islets, said to be five in number, like 
the Clove Islands, but really amounting to ten, although some of them 
be uninhabited." (Desc. Diet., p. 33.) Barbosa makes the population 
Moors and Pagans, and Pigafetta speaks of them as being Moors only. 
(Ramusio, vol. i. pp. 319, 368.) De Barros, as quoted by Crawfurd, 
gives the following description of the inhabitants and produce of the 
Banda Islands, which on most points strikingly confirms Varthema's 
account : — " The people of these islands are robust, with a tawny com- 
plexion and lank hair, and are of the worst repute in these parts. They 
follow the Mohammedan sect, and are much addicted to trade, their 
women performing the labours of the field. They have neither king 
nor lord, and all their government depends on the advice of their elders; 
and as these are often at variance, they quarrel among themselves. The 
land has no other export than the nutmeg. This tree is in such abund- 
ance that the land is full of it, without its being planted by any one, 
for the earth yields it without culture. The forests which produce it 
belong to no one by inheritance, but to the people in common. When 
June and September come, which are the months for gathering the 
crop, the nutmeg woods are allotted, and he who gathers most has most 
profit." Desc. Diet., p. 35. 

R 2 


fifteen days we arrived at the said island, which is very ugly 
and gloomy, and is about one hundred miles in circum- 
ference, and is a very low and flat country. There is no 
king here, nor even a governor, but there are some peasants, 
like beasts, without understanding. The houses of this 
island are of timber, very gloomy, and low. Their dress 
consists of a shirt; they go barefooted, with nothing on their 
heads; their hair long, the face broad and round, their 
colour is white, and they are small of stature. Their faith 
is Pagan, but they are of that most gloomy class of Calicut 
called Poliar and Tlirava ;~ they are very weak of under- 
standing, aud in strength they have no vigour, but live like 
beasts. Nothing grows here but nutmegs and some fruits. 
The trunk of the nutmeg is formed like a peach tree, and 
produces its leaves in like manner ; but the branches are 
more close, and before the nut arrives at perfection the mace 
stands round it like an open rose, and when the nut is ripe 
the mace clasps it, and so they gather it in the month of 
September ; for in this island the seasons go as with us, and 
every man gathers as much as he can, for all are common, 
and no labour is bestowed upon the said trees, but nature is 
left to do her own work. These nuts are sold by a 
measure, which weighs twenty-six pounds, for the price 
of half a carlino. Money circulates here as in Calicut. It 
is not necessary to administer justice here, for the people 
are so stupid, that if they wished to do evil they would not 
know how to accomplish it. At the end of two days my 
companion said to the Christians : " Where do the cloves 
grow ?" They answered : " That they grew six days' jour- 
ney hence, in an island called Monoch, and that the people 
of that island arc beastly, and more vile and worthless than 
those of Bandan. At last we determined to go to that island 
be the people what they might, and so we set sail, and in 
twelve days arrived at the said island. 

1 Sec p. 171 and note. 



We disembarked in this island of Monoch, which is much 
smaller than Bandan ; but the people are worse than those 

1 Vartheina here applies the collective name to one of the five islands 
forming the proper Moluccas, but affords no indication enabling us to 
identify the island where he lauded, which was probably either Ternate 
or Tidor. With regard to the collective appellative, Mr. Crawfurd re- 
marks : — " The collective name, which the Portuguese write Maluca, and 
is correctly Maluka, is equally unknown, although said to be that of a 
place and people of the island of Gilolo. No such name is, at present, 
known to exist in that island. There can be no doubt, however, but 
that this word was used by the Malays and Javanese, who conducted 
the spice trade, before it fell into the hands of the Portuguese ; for it is 
employed by Barbosa, who visited the Archipelago before the conquest 
of Malacca ; and again in 1521 by Pigafetta, who writes the word 
MahiccoP {Desc. Diet., p. 2S3.) It is clear that Gilolo was not 
Varthema's Monoch. for he describes the latter as much smaller than 
Bandan. Pigafetta gives a circumstantial account of the group, but 
Barbosa's briefer narrative comprises the most important particulars 
respecting their condition at this period: — "In advance of these islands, 
[Ambon = Amboyna,] towards the north, are the five islands of Maluco, 
in all of which cloves grow, and they belong to Pagans and Muhammedans, 
and the kings are Muhammedans. The first is called Bachan; the second, 
Machian, which has a good harbour; the third, Motel; the fourth, 
Tidoro ; the fifth, Terenati, in which there is a Muhammedan king called 
Sultan Heraram Corala, [the second word is probably a corruption of 
Khair- Allah ; I can make nothing of the first,] who used to rule over 
all the said Clove islands, but four were taken from him, and each has a 
king of its own. The mountains of these five islands are all full of cloves, 
which grow on certain trees like the laurel, which has a leaf like the 
comari[!\ and grows like the flower of an orange. In the beginning it 
[the clove] is green, then it becomes white, and when ripe is red. The 
people then gather it with the hand, climbing on the trees, and place 
it to dry in the sun, which makes it black ; and if there is no sun, they 
dry it in smoke, and when it is well dried, they sprinkle it with acqua 
salsa [this may mean salt water] that it may not bi-eak, and that it may 
retain its virtue. Of these cloves, the quantity is so great that they can 
never wholly gather them, so that much of them is left to go to the bad. 
Those trees from which fruit is not collected for three years remain in 
a wild state, and those cloves are worthless. These islands are frequented 
every year by those from Malaca and Giava who come to load with 
cloves, and bring to buy with, quicksilver, cinnaber, cloths from Cambaia, 


of Bandan, but live in the same manner, and are a little 
more white, and the air is a little more cold. Here the 
cloves grow, and in many other neighbouring islands, but 
they are small and uninhabited. The tree of the cloves is 
exactly like the box tree, that is, thick, and the leaf is like 
that of the cinnamon, but it is a little more round, and is of 
that colour which I have already mentioned to you in Zeilan, 
[Ceylon,] which is almost like the leaf of the laurel. When 
these cloves are ripe, the said men beat them down with 
canes, and place some mats under the said tree to catch them. 
The place where these trees are is like sand, that is, it is of 
the same colour, not that it is sand. The country is very 
low, 1 and the north star is not seen from it. When we had 
seen this island and these people, we asked the Christians 
if there was anything else to see. They replied : " Let us 
see a little how they sell these cloves." We found that they 
were sold for twice as much as the nutmegs, but by measure, 
because these people do not understand weights. 


We were now desirous of changing countries, in order to 

Bengala, and Paleacate, drugs of Cambaia, some pepper, porcelain 
vases, large metal bells which are made in Giava, and brass and tin 
basins. The cloves here are so cheap, that they get them almost for 
nothing. This king of Malnco is a Muharamedan, and almost a Pagan, 
for he has a Muhammedan wife, and keeps in his house between three 
and four hundred beautiful girls who are Pagans, of whom he has sons 
and daughters, and only the sons of the Muhammedan women become 
Muhammedans. Besides, he has always in his service many hunch- 
backed women, whose shoulders and backs he causes to be broken in 
infancy, and this he does for the sake of show and reputation. He has 
between eighty and a hundred of these, who always stand around and 
near him, and serve him instead of pages, for one hands him betel-leaf, 
and another his sword, and in like manner they perform all other 
offices." Ramusio, vol. i. p. 31!). 
1 Meaning, perhaps, as to latitude. 


learn new things in every way. Then said the Christians : 
" O dear companion, since God has conducted us so far in 
safety, if it please you, Ave will go to see the largest island in the 
world, 1 and the most rich, and you will see a thing which you 
have never seen before. But we must first go to another island 
which is called Bornei, where we must take a large ship, for 

1 By "the greatest island in the world" the Christians appear to have 
meant Java, showing how ignorant they were of the comparative size 
of Borneo. At what point of the latter island the party landed is un- 
certain, but it was undoubtedly on the southern part, for our author 
says : " pigliammo il camino verso la detta isola, alia qual sernpre si va 
al mezzo giorno." And yet, if this inference is correct, one fails to per- 
ceive the necessity of the precaution suggested by the Christians, that 
they must first go to Borneo, and take a larger vessel there, because the 
sea on the way was rougher ; since, from the southern part of that island, 
their route to Java would have been much the same as that by which 
they had sailed from Sumatra to the Banda Islands, except, indeed, that 
in the one case they probably hugged the coast of Java, (Vartheuia tells 
us that they found about twenty islands on the way,) and in the other 
would have to cross the Java sea. Unfortunately, the approximate 
measurement given of the distance between the Moluccas and Borneo 
affords no aid in settling either the course pursued or the point of 
disembarcation, as the nearest extremities of the two places are 450 
miles apart, which leads to the conjecture that by some mischance 
" 200 miles" may have been substituted for " 200 leagues''' in the origi- 
nal MS., or in the first copies. Further, it is open to question 
whether the mainland of Borneo was the locality visited : Varthema's 
description of the island as being " alquanto maggiore che la sopradetta 
[referring to his Maluch,~\ e molto piu bassa," would rather indicate one 
of the islets on the south-eastern side of Borneo, though perhaps by 
"bassa" he refers to latitude ; otherwise we must pronounce his usual 
accuracy greatly at fault in this instance, or infer that his informants 
were as unacquainted as himself with the real size of Bornei. However 
this may be, his statement respecting the large export of camphor warrants 
the inference that the place was situated in the highway of the trade of 
that period, and his account of the inhabitants shows that they had 
attained a degree of civilization far beyond that of the aboriginal Dayaks. 
These latter, according to Crawfurd, rarely reach the sea-coast, which is 
in the occupation of foreign settlers, whom he considers to be generally of 
Malay descent, and Varthema's brief description of those whom he met 
at Bornei coincides with that opinion. 

For further information respecting Borneo, I refer the reader to the 


the sea is more rough." He replied : " I am well pleased to 
do that which you wish." And so we took our way towards the 
said island, the route to which is constantly to the southward. 
While on our way the said Christians had no other plea- 
sure, night and day, than that of conversing with me upon 
subjects relating to the Christians and about our faith. And 
when I told them of the Volto Santo which is in St. Peter's, 
and of the heads of St. Peter and St. Paul, and of many 
other saints, they told me secretly that if I would go with 
them I should be a very great lord, for having seen these 
things. I doubted that after they had conducted me there 
I should ever have been able to return to my country, and 
therefore I abstained from going. When we had arrived in 
the island of Bornei, which is distant from Monoch about 
two hundred miles, we found it to be somewhat larger than 
the abovementioned, and much lower. The people of this 
island are Pagans, and are good people. Their colour is 
more white than otherwise. Their dress consists of a cotton 
shirt, and some go clothed in camelots. Some wear red 
caps. In this island justice is strictly administered, and 
every year a very great quantity of camphor is shipped, 
which they say grows there, and which is the gum of a tree. 
If it be so, I have not seen it, and therefore I do not affirm 
it. Here my companion chartered a vessel for one hundred 


When the chartered vessel was supplied with provisions, 
we took our way towards the beautiful island called Giava, 

able article under that head in Mr. Crawfurd's Descriptive Dictionary, 
where he has collected together all the available authorities on the early 
history of the island, and the first attempts made by Europeans to opcu 
commercial relations with the inhabitants. 


at which we arrived in five clays, sailing towards the south. 
The captain of the said ship carried the compass with the 
magnet after our maimer, and had a chart which was all 
marked with lines, perpendicular and across. My com- 
panion asked the Christians : " Now that we have lost the 
north star, how does he steer us ? Is there any other north 
star than this by which we steer ?" The Christians asked 
the captain of the ship this same thing, and he showed us four 
or five stars, among which there was one which he said was 
contrario delta (opposite to) our north star, 1 and that he sailed 
by the north because the magnet was adjusted 3 and subjected 
to our north. He also told us that on the other side of the 
said island, towards the south, there are some other races, 
who navigate by the said four or five stars opposite to ours ; :i 

1 In Varthema's Travels as contained in the edition of Ramusio of 
1613, the words are : " ch'era incontro della." The meaning doubtless 
is, over against, opposite to. 

2 In the original " acconcia," i.e. conformed to, adjusted to. 

3 Being but very imperfectly acquainted with nautical astronomy, I 
submitted this chapter to my friend C. R. Markham, Esq., the Honorary 
Secretary of the Hakluyt Society, and also to R. H. Major, Esq., of the 
British Museum, whose able Introduction to the Early Voyages to Terra 
Australia, now called Australia, is a sufficient warranty of his qualifica- 
tions to give an opinion on any subject connected with the infancy of 
navigation in that part of the globe. I append their respective notes, 
with the initials of their names attached. 

" These four or five stars are the constellation of the Southern Cross. 
When the Southern Cross is vertical, a line drawn through the upper 
and lower stars passes through the South Pole, and meets a star called 
B. Ilydrus, which is about twice as far from the South Pole as the star 
which we call the Pole Star is from the North Pole. This, no doubt, is 
the star alluded to by Varthema as being ' contrary to our North Star.' 
The skipper navigated by the North, because his compass was of Euro- 
pean manufacture ['?], its index pointing to the North, and not like that 
of the Chinese pointing to the South." C. R. M. 

Andrea Corsalis, a century after Varthema, gives the following in- 
teresting account and diagram of the Southern Cross, which he also 
describes as being " opposta alia nostra Tramontana :" — " After passing 
the equinoctial line, we were in an altitude of 37°, in the other hemi- 
sphere, opposite the Cape of Good Hope, — a stormy and cold climate, 



and, moreover, they gave us to understand that beyond the 

the sun being at this season in the northern constellations, and we found 
the night fourteen hours long. Here we saw a wonderful order of 
the stars, which, in the part of the sky opposite to our north, revolve in 
infinite numbers. Wherever the Antarctic Pole might be, for the degrees 
of altitude we took the day by the Sun, and we reconnoitred the night by 
the astrolabe, and they made manifest two nebulae [or clouds] of tolerable 
size, which, alternately falling and rising, continually moved round it, [this 
order of the stars,] having a star always in the centre, which, with them, 
revolved about eleven degrees from the Pole. Above these, there ap- 
peared a wonderful Cross in the midst of five stars which surround it, 
(as the Wain does the North [Star],) with other stars which, therewith, 
go round the Pole, revolving round it at a distance of about 30°, and 
performed the circuit in twenty-four hours ; and it [the Cross] is so 
beautiful, that in my opinion none of the celestial constellations can be 
compared to it, as will be seen by the annexed figure. And, unless I 
am mistaken, I believe this to be the Crusero of which Dante, with a 
spirit of prophecy, speaks in the beginning of his Purgatory." 
[Reference is here made to the opening part of Canto I : — 
" Io mi volsi a man destra, e posi mente 

All' altro polo, e vidi quattro stelle 

Non viste mai, fuor ch' alia prima gente. 
Goder pareva '1 Ciel di lor fiamelle. 

settentrional vedovo sito, 

Poi che privato se' di mirar quelle !" 
We may fairly question Dante's prophetical powers, but if the Southern 
Cross is indicated in these lines, whence did he obtain his knowledge I] 

A. Antarctic Pole. J!. iiasEllo. 

(ItAMUSIO, vol. i. p. 15 7.) 


said island the day does not last more than four hours, and 
that there it was colder than in any other part of the world. 
Hearing this we were much pleased and satisfied. 1 





Following then our route, in five days we arrived at this 
island of Giava, in which there are many kingdoms, the 
kings of which are Pagans. Their faith is this : some adore 
idols as they do in Calicut, and there are some who worship 
the sun, others the moon ; many worship the ox ; a great 
many the first thing they meet in the morning ; and others 

1 " This sentence is very important if it should point to latitudes on 
a line with or south of Australia. The point where the shortest day 
would only last four hours would be 15° south of the southern point of 
Van Diemen's Land. It is most improbable that the Malay skipper 
should have been so far south ; yet his statements indicate a knowledge 
of countries as far south, at least, as Australia." C. R. M. 

" Vague as this sentence is, it either means nothing, or it contains 
information of very great importance. It is difficult to suppose that 
the Malay skipper should have been so far south as the great Southern 
Continent ; yet it is more difficult to believe him capable of describing 
a phenomenon natural to these high latitudes, except from his own ob- 
servation, or that of other navigators of that early period. But even 
should we feel disposed to withhold our belief in the probability of an 
event so astonishing as this would be, there yet remains the almost 
unavoidable conclusion that Australians are alluded to in the descrip- 
tion of people to the south of Java who navigated by the four or five 
stars, doubtless the constellation of the Southern Cross. This reference 
to Australia is the more remarkable, that it precedes, in time, even those 
early indications of the discovery of that country which I have shown to 
exist on manuscript maps of the first half of the sixteenth century, 
although the discoverers' names, most probably Portuguese, and the date 
of the discovery, as yet remain a mystery. 1 ' R. H. M. 



worship the devil in the manner I have already told you. 1 
This island produces an immense quantity of silk, 2 part in 
our manner and part wild, and the best emeralds 3 in the 

1 Java was unknown, even by name, to the civilized nations of Europe 
before Marco Polo's time, and his account of the island was founded on 
the report of others. Of the government, he merely remarks that the 
king was independent. Ibn Batuta, who visited Java circa a.d. 1330, 
says that the king was an infidel. Varthema places the country under 
many rulers, and makes all the rulers and people Pagans. The first 
statement is confirmed by De Barros, who says : " The island of Java is 
divided into many kingdoms ;" the second is modified by Barbosa, who 
describes Java Major as " inhabited by many Pagans, and in the sea- 
ports by Moors, wherein there are many villages and localities containing 
very many dwellings of Moors and of Moorish kings, who, however, are 
all subject to the king of the island, who is a Pagan, and resides inland. 
He is a very great lord, and is called Pale udora. Sometimes they rebel 
against him, but he immediately reduces them again." (Ramusio, vol. i. 
p. 31.9.) This appears to be the most probable account of the govern- 
ment and religion of the Javanese at the period referred to, though 
Crawfurd says : " All authorities are agreed in assigning the year of 
Christ 1478 as that in which Majapait [the capital of the principal 
Hindu state] was overthrown." I am unable to adjust the discrepancy, 
which, after all, is not a wide one ; but that Islamism had not absorbed 
the population generally till long after is evident, for Crawfurd himself, 
quoting from De Barros, writes : — " When Henrique Leme visited the 
country of the Sundas in 1522, forty-four years after the supposed final 
conversion of the Javanese, he found idolatrous temples, nunneries, and 
the practice of concremation, still existing ;" (Bescr. Diet., pp. 1 85-6 ;) 
and Hamilton describes the religion of Java at the beginning of the last 
century as partly Muhammedan and partly Pagan. See Pinkerton, 
vol. viii. p. 455. 

a I find nothing to corroborate this statement about the growth of 
silk at Java, on the contrary, Crawfurd's account entirely contradicts it : 
— " The only material, besides cotton, from which cloth is made by the 
Javanese is silk, and as the art of rearing the silk-worm has never been 
introduced into Java, with any effectual result, the raw material has 
always been imported." Id., p. 178. 

3 If emeralds were found at Java, they must have been imported from 
some other quarter. These stones appear to have been very scarce even 
in India at this period, for Andrea Corsali, writing of that country, says : 
" I do not know where emeralds are produced : here they are in greater 
estimation than any other stone." (Ramusio, vol. i. p. 180.) Varthema 
himself says the same of Pegu. See p. 218 ante. 


world are found here, and gold and copper in great quan- 
tity ; l very much grain, like ours, and excellent fruits like 
those of Calicut. Animal food of all kinds, like ours, is 
found in this country. I believe that these inhabitants are 
the most trustworthy men in the world : they are white and 
of about our stature, but they have the face much broader 
than ours, their eyes large and green, the nose much de- 
pressed, and the hair long.~ The birds here are in great 
multitudes, and" all different from ours excepting the pea- 
cocks, turtle-doves, and black crows, which three kinds are 
like ours. The strictest justice is administered among these 
people, and they go clothed dW apostolica in stuffs of silk, 
camelot, and cotton, and they do not use many arms, be- 

1 I infer from Crawfurd that gold is found in its native state in Java, 
where also " massive ornaments of this metal, with images of the same, 
are frequently discovered." (Hist, of the Ind. Archp., vol. i. p. 183.) 
With regard to copper, the same author says : " Ores of this metal have 
been found in Sumatra, Celebes, and Timur...In Sumatra, mines of it 
are said to be worked, but if such be the case, even their locality has 
certainly never been shown. The probability is, that this metal has 
always been, as it now is, imported. ..The use of copper in Java, chiefly 
in the formation, with tin and zinc, of alloys, is attested to have been 
of considerable antiquity by the discovery in old ruins of many statues 
and utensils of bronze, and even of copper itself. Desc. Diet., pp. 

3 " Java, whether the inhabitants be of the Javanese or Sunda nation, 
is peopled by the same race, the Malayan. This is characterized by a 
short and squat person,... the face is round, the mouth wide, the cheek- 
bones high, the nose short, small, never prominent as with the Euro- 
pean, and never flat as with the African negro. The eyes are always 
black, small, and deep-seated. The complexion is brown, with a shade 
of yellow, not so dark as with the majority of Hindus, and never black 
as with some of them." As to the moral character of the Javanese, Mr. 
Crawfurd fully coincides with Varthema, in which respect, however, 
both are decidedly at issue with Barbosa, who calls them, by report, 
" genti molto superbe, bugiarde, e traditori." Crawfurd, on the con- 
trary, says they are " a peaceable, docile, sober, simple, and industrious 
people ;" and adds : — " from my own experience of them, I have no 
difficulty in pronouncing them the most straightforward and truthful 
people that I have met with." Desc. Diet., pp. 173-4. 


cause those only fight who go to sea. 1 These carry bows, 
and the greater part darts of cane. Some also use zara- 
boltaner (blow-pipes), with which they throw poisoned darts ; 
and they throw them with the mouth, and, however little 
they draw blood, the [wounded] person dies. No artillery 
of any kind is used here, nor do they know at all how to 
make it. 3 These people eat bread made of corn ; some also 

1 Barbosa speaks of the Javanese as being "gran corsari, perche 
vanno travagliando per mare ;" and Crawfurd says that boat-building 
is still an art extensively practised all along the northern coast of Java. 
Their maritime propensities may be inferred also from the fact that they 
have no fewer than four generic names for a ship or vessel : prau, jon<j, 
baita, and pahva, — all native words." See Desc. Diet., p. 176. 

2 This weapon is thus described by Crawfurd : — " The chief missile in 
use before the introduction of fire-arms, was a small arrow ejected from 
a blow-pipe by the breath, called a Sumpitan, meaning the object blown 
through. This instrument is at present in general use by most of the 
wild tribes of Sumatra, Borneo, and Celebes. The bow for discharging 
arrows is well known to all the more advanced nations of the Archi- 
pelago, but does not seem, at any time, to have been generally employed, 
the blow-pipe probably superseding its use, although a far less effectual 
weapon. It is found represented on the sculptures of some of the monu- 
ments of Java of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries." Id., p. 21. 

3 Barbosa, in describing the Javanese by report from four to nine 
years subsequent to Varthema, says : " they are great masters in casting 
artillery. They make here many spingarde, [one-pounders ?] muskets, 
and fire-works, and in every place are considered excellent in casting 
artillery, and in the knowledge of discharging it. (Ramusio, vol. i. p. 319.) 
Crawfurd also adduces satisfactory evidence to prove that fire-arms 
were used by the natives of Malacca when that place was assaulted by 
Albuquerque in loll, and sums up his researches into the subject with 
this inference : — that although there is no record of the actual year in 
which fire-arms were first made known to the inhabitants of the Archi- 
pelago, yet, considering the frequent intercourse which subsisted be- 
tween them and the maritime parts of Western India, " we may safely 
conclude that the event did not take place earlier than fifty years 
before the arrival of the Portuguese, that is, about the middle of the 
fifteenth century, or about a century after they had been in common 
use in Europe." {Id., p. 23.) Varthema's contrary statement cannot 
stand against this weight of authority ; nevertheless, I venture to sug- 
gest in his behalf, what I am disposed to consider very probable, 
especially from the subject of the next chapter, whereon he is again in 


eat the flesh of sheep, or of stags, or, indeed, of wild hogs, 
and some others eat fish and fruits. 




The people in this island who eat flesh, when their fathers 
become so old that they can no longer do any work, their 
children or relations set them up in the market-place for 
sale, and those who purchase them kill them and eat them 
cooked. 1 And if any young man should be attacked by any 

antagonism with Mr. Crawfurd, that our traveller may have landed at 
some out-of-the-way place iu the island, where the people were com- 
paratively uncivilized, and that he drew his general inferences from 
what he saw in that restricted locality. Under any circumstances, the 
introduction of fire-arms into Java at this period was recent, and their 
use at the outset was most likely confined to the people of the more 
advanced maritime districts, whilst those residing in less frequented 
parts, and in the interior, would not have adopted them till some time 
after. In support of the plausibility of this suggestion, I submit the 
two following considerations : — 1st., that the Arabs of Yemen were 
unacquainted with fire-arms in 1515, although the Egyptians, who in- 
vaded their coast in that year, had long possessed them, (see note on p. 
65 ante i) and, 2ndly., that notwithstanding the contiguity of the two 
countries, and the frequent intercourse which had for centuries sub- 
sisted between them, the inhabitants of Ceylon appear to have been 
ignorant of artillery in 1507 when Don Lorenzo De Almeyda first disco- 
vered that island, whereas those of Western Iudia had certainly used 
it at least twenty-five years before. See p. 193 ante, and note. 

1 Mr. Crawfurd remarks on Varthema's description of Java generally, 
and on this statement in particular, that " his account is obviously false 
or worthless, for he describes parents as selling their children to be 
eaten by the purchasers, and himself as quitting the island in haste for 
fear of being made a meal of." (Desc. Diet., pp. 165-6.) Now, it is 
evident that our traveller is speaking of a class quite distinct from the 
more civilized community of the place, for these latter he had desig- 
nated as " the most trustworthy men in the world ;" hence, the ques- 
tion arises whether among the rude aborigines of the island at that 
period, (and I have already conjectured that Varthema may have visited 


great sickness, and that it should appear to the skilful that 
he might die of it, the father or the brother of the sick man 
kills him, and they do not wait for him to die. And when 
they have killed him they sell him to others to be eaten. 
Wc, being astonished at such a thing, some merchants of the 
country said to us : " O you poor Persians, why do you 

a part where such were likely to be found,) there were not some addicted 
to the practice of eating human flesh. Nov, nobis tantas compo?iere lites; 
nevertheless, I would submit the following independent testimony as to 
the prevalence of cannibalism in the Malayan Peninsula and the Archi- 
pelago at this period, leaving the reader to form his own judgment on 
Yarthema's credibility. Premising as possible, that the credulity and 
fears of the party may have been imposed upon in this instance, such a 
suj>position is inadmissible in the case of Nicolo de' Conti, who resided 
in Sumatra a whole year, and who describes the custom as prevailing 
there in his time : — " In one part of the island called Batech, the inha- 
bitants eat human flesh, and are in a state of constant warfare with their 
neighbours. They keep human heads as valuable property, for when 
they have captured an enemy they cut off his head, and, having eaten 
the flesh, store up the skull and use it for money." To which quotation 
the editor appends the following note : — " B«tec/i=Batta ; a district 
extending from the river Singkell to the Tabooyong, and inland to the 
back of Ayer Bahgis. Marsden, in his History of Sumatra (p. 390, 3rd 
edit.) gives instances of cannibalism among this people as late as the year 
1780." {India in the Fifteenth Century, ii. p. 9.) Pigafetta also, de- 
scribing Sulacho, fifty miles distant from the Moluccas, says : " The 
men of this island are Pagans, and eat human flesh ;" and he subse- 
quently attributes the same practice to one of the Ladrone or Marian 
Islands, which he calls Maulla, stating that " its inhabitants are savages 
and bestial, and eat human flesh." (Ramusio, vol. i. p. 368.) I note 
that Mr. Crawfurd must have used a different edition of Pigafetta's 
Voyages from that given in Ramusio, for this passage does not appear 
in his long quotation from that author. {Desc. Diet., pp. 268-9.) Lastly, 
De Faria y Souza, in his account of the territory of "Siam, says : " It 
contains much mountain and plain, and in both sundry sorts of people, 
some most barbarous and cruel, who feed on human flesh, as the Guei, 
who for ornament make figures on their bodies with hot irons." Portu- 
guese Asia, translated by Stevens, vol. i. p. 223. 

On the whole, although Yarthema's account of Java is certainly less 
accurate than his descriptions in general, I hardly think it merits the 
epithets of being "obviously false or worthless" which Mr. Crawfurd 
casts upon it. 


leave such charming flesh to be eaten by the worms ?" My 
companion hearing this immediately exclaimed : " Quick, 
quick, let us go to our ship, for these people shall never 
more come near me on land." 


The Christians said to my companion : " O my friend, 
take this news to your country, and take this other also 
which we will show you. Look there, now that it is mid- 
day, turn your eyes towards where the sun sets." And 
raising our eyes we saw that the sun cast a shadow to the 
left more than a palmo? And by this we understood that 
we were far distant from our country, at which we remained 
exceedingly astonished. And, according to what my com- 
panion said, I think that this was the month of June ; for I 
had lost our months, and sometimes the name of the day. 
You must know that there is little difference between the 
cold with us and here. Having seen the customs of this 
island, it appeared to us that there was not much reason to 
remain in it, because it was necessary to be all night on 
guard for fear some wretch should come and carry us off to 
eat us. Wherefore, having called the Christians, we told 
them that, as soon as they could, we would return to our 
country. Before we departed, however, my companion 

1 In the original, " fa spera," but in the edition of Ramusio of 1613 
it is rendered " faceva ombra." This is undoubtedly a gloss, but the 
meaning is preserved. 

3 I am indebted to my friend Mr. Markham for the following note on 
this passage : — " The equator bisects the island of Borneo, therefore, in 
the month of June, when Varthema was navigating, his vessel on the 
way to Java would have crossed the sun's path, and, as he so concisely 
observes, when he looked to the west the sun would be to his north, and 
the shadow or reflection would be cast on his left hand." 


bought two emeralds for a thousand pardai, and he pur- 
chased for two hundred pardai two little children who had 
no sexual organs ; for in this island there are a kind of mer- 
chants, who follow no other trade excepting that of pur- 
chasing little children, from whom they cut off in their 
childhood everything, and they remain like women. 1 


Having remained in this island of Giava altogether four- 
teen days, we determined to return back, because, partly 
through the fear of their cruelty in eating men, partly also 
through the extreme cold, we did not dare to proceed far- 
ther, and also because there was hardly any other place 
known to them [the Christians], Wherefore we chartered 
a large vessel, that is, a giunco, and took our way outside the 
islands towards the east ; because on this side there is no 
archipelago, and the navigation is more safe. We sailed for 
fifteen days and arrived at the city of Malacha, and here we 
stopped for three days, where our Christian companions re- 
mained, whose bewailings and lamentations it would be 
impossible shortly to describe ; so that, truly, if I had not 

1 Barbosa attributes a similar inhuman practice to the Mussulmans 
of Bengal : — "Li Mori mercatanti di questa citta vanno fra terra a com- 
prar garzoni piccolini dalli lor padri e madri gentili, e da altri, che gli 
rubbano, e li castrano, levandogli via il tutto, di sorte che restano rasi, 
come la palma della mano : e alcuni di questi moiono, ma quelli che 
scampano, gli allevano molto bene, e poi li vendono per cento e ducento 
ducati l'uno alii Mori di Persia, che gli apprezzano molto, per tenerli 
in guardia delle lor donne, e della lor robba, e per altre dishonesta." 
Pigafetta also mentions the kingdom of Cirote in Burmah as the place 
" dove si fanno tutti li Eunuchi che sono condotti di Levante." (Ra- 
musio, vol. i. pp. 316, 391.) It is a well known fact, that the excision 
described was at one time extensively practised in Upper Egypt, and 
tbat rumour, whether true or false I know not, attributed the horrible 
operation to certain Coptic monks. 


had a wife and children, I would have gone with them. 
And likewise they said, that if they had known how to come 
in safety, they would have accompanied us. And I believe 
also that my companion comforted them for not coming, 
because they would not be obliged to give an account to the 
Christians of so many lords who are in their country, who 
are also Christians and possess immense riches. So that 
they remained, saying that they would return to Sarnau, 1 
and we went with our ship to Cioromandel. The cap- 
tain of the ship said that around the island of Giava, and 
around the island of Sumatra, there were more than eight 
thousand islands. Wherefore my companion bought in 
Malacha five thousand parclai worth of small spices, and 
silk stuffs, and odoriferous things. We sailed for fifteen 
days, and arrived at the said city of Cioromandel, and here 
the ship chartered in Giava was unladen. We remained in 
this country about twenty days, and then took a ship, that 
is to say, a Ciampana, and went to Colon, 2 where I found 
twenty-two Portuguese Christians. On which account I had 
a very great desire to escape, but I remained, because they 
were few, and I was afraid of the Moors ; for there were 
some merchants with us who knew that I had been at M echa 
and to the body of Mahomet, and I was afraid that they 
might imagine that I should discover their hypocrisies, 
wherefore I abstained from running away. Twelve days 
afterwards we took our route towards Calicut, that is, by 
the river, 3 and arrived there in the space of ten days. 

Now it will be an easy thing for every kind reader to 
perceive, by the long discourse concerning various countries 
contained in the above written books, that my companion 
and myself having become wearied, partly by the different 
temperatures of the air as may be imagined, partly by the 

1 See note 3 on p. 212 ante. 

s Colon=Quilon. See note on pp. 182-4 ante. 

3 See note on pp. 179-80 ante. 

S 2 


different customs we met with at every step as has been 
described, and especially by the inhuman men not unlike 
beasts, determined to return. I will now recount shortly, 
(in order that my narrative may not be wearisome,) what 
happened to me on our return, because it will be useful to 
some either in restraining their too eager appetite for seeing 
the inestimable greatness of the world, or, being on their 
road, in knowing how to regulate themselves and use their 
understanding in sudden emergencies. Being then arrived 
in Calicut on our return, as I have shortly before written, 
we found two Christians who were Milanese. One was 
called loan-Maria, and the other Piero Antonio, who had 
arrived from Portugal with the ships of the Portuguese, and 
had come to purchase jewels on the part of the king. 1 And 
when they had arrived in Cocin, 2 they fled to Calicut. Truly 
I never had greater pleasure than in seeing these two 
Christians. They and I went naked after the custom of the 
country. I asked them if they were Christians. loan-Maria 
answered : " Yes, truly we are." And then Piero Antonio 
asked me if I was a Christian. I answered : " Yes, God be 
praised." Then he took me by the hand, and led me into 
his house. And when we had arrived at the house, we 

1 Don Emanuel of Portugal, surnamed the Fortunate. 

- Cochin : — " a town which, though giving name to a small raj or 
native state, belongs to the British, and is included within the district 
of Malabar, under the" presidency of Madras. Lat. 9° 8', long. 76° 18'." 
(TnoitNTON's Gazetteer.) When the Portuguese first arrived in India, 
Cochin was governed by a Rajah called Triumpara or Trimunpara, who 
appears to have been subject to the Zamorin of Calicut. Pedro Alvarez 
Cabral was well received by this sovereign, and established a factory in 
the town as early as 1500. In 1502, the Zamorin endeavoured to detach 
Triumpara from the Portuguese, but without effect, and the latter on 
their part engaged to support him against his suzerain, who in the fol- 
lowing year attacked and defeated him. He was subsequently restored 
by the Portuguese, on which occasion they received permission to build 
a fort and church at Cochin, and became virtually masters of the place. 
It was taken from them by the Dutch in 1662. This is the first time 
that Varthcma mentions Cochin. 


began to embrace and kiss each other, and to weep. Truly, 
I could not speak like a Christian : it appeared as though my 
tongue were large and hampered, for I had been four years 
without speaking with Christians. 1 The night following I 
remained with them ; and neither of them, nor could I, 
either eat or sleep solely for the great joy we had. You 
may imagine that we could have wished that that night 
might have lasted for a year, that we might talk together of 
various things, amongst which I asked them if they were 
friends of the king of Calicut. They replied that they were 
his chief men, and that they spoke with him every day. I 
asked them also what was their intention. They told me that 
they would willingly have returned to their country, but 
that they did not know by what way. I answered them : 
" Return by the way you came." They said that that was 
not possible, because they had escaped from the Portuguese, 
and that the king of Calicut had obliged them to make a 
great quantity of artillery against fheir will, 2 and on this 
account they did not wish to return by that route ; and they 
said that they expected the fleet of the king of Portugal very 
soon. I answered them, that if God granted me so much 
grace that I might be able to escape to Cananor when the 
fleet had arrived, I would so act that the captain of the 
Christians should pardon them ; and I told them that it was 
not possible for them to escape by any other way, because it 
was known through many nations that they made artillery. 
And many kings had wished to have them in their hands on 

1 Meaning, Europeans or European Christians. 

3 Most of the cannoniers in the service of the Indian states at this 
period appear to have been either Franks or Turks ; and a knowledge 
of artillery was evidently much prized, for Varthema professed himself 
capable of making the largest mortars in the world in order to escape 
from his Mamluk companions at Meccah. (See p. 50 ante.) De Faria y 
Souza mentions incidentally, that in 1507 a renegade Christian directed 
the assault against the fort which the Portuguese had then recently 
built on the island of Angediva. Stevens's Portuguese Asia, vol. i. p. 


account of their skill, and therefore it was not possible to 
escape in any other manner. And you must know that they 
had made between four and five hundred pieces of ordnance 
large and small, so that in short they had very great fear of 
the Portuguese ; and in truth there was reason to be afraid, 
for not only did they make the artillery themselves, but they 
also taught the Pagans to make it ; and they told me, more- 
over, that they had taught fifteen servants of the king to 
fire spingarde. And during the time I was here, they gave 
to a Pagan the design and form of a mortar, which weighed 
one hundred and five cantara, and was made of metal. 
There was also a Jew here who had built a very beautiful 
galley, and had made four mortars of iron. The said Jew, 
going to wash himself in a pond of water, was drowned. 
Let us return to the said Christians : God knows what I said 
to them, exhorting them not to commit such an act against 
Christians. Piero Antonio wept incessantly, and loan- 
Maria said it was the same to him whether he died in Calicut 
or in Rome, and that God had ordained what was to be. 

The next morning I returned to find my companion, 
who was making great lamentation, for he thought that I 
had been killed. I told him, in order to excuse myself, 
that I had been to sleep in a Moorish mosque to render 
thanks to God and to Mahomet for the benefit received in 
that we had returned in safety, and with this he was much 
pleased. And in order that I might be able to know what 
was going on in the country, 1 told him that I would 
continue to sleep in the mosque, and that I did not want 
any goods, but that I wished always to be poor. And 
wishing to escape from them, I thought that I could only 
deceive them by hypocrisy ; for the Moors are the most 
stupid people in the world, so that he was satisfied. And 
this I did in order that I might be able to talk frequently 
with the Christians, because they knew everything, from 
day to day, from the court of the king. I began to put my 


hypocrisy in practice, and pretended to be a Moorish saint, 
and never would eat flesh excepting in the house of loan- 
Maria, where every night we ate two brace of fowls. And I 
would no longer associate with merchants, neither did any 
man ever see me smile, and all day I remained in the mosque 
excepting when he [my companion] sent for me to go and eat; 
and he scolded me because I would not eat flesh. I replied : 
" That too much eating leads man to many sins." And in 
this manner, I began to be a Moorish saint, and happy was 
he who could kiss my hand and some my knees. 


It happening that a Moorish merchant fell sick of a very 
great malady, and could not by any means get natural relief, 
he sent to my companion, who was a great friend of his, to 
know if he or any one in his house could give him any 
remedy. He answered that I would go to visit him ; and so 
he and I together went to the house of the sick man and 
questioned him about his illness. He said to us : " I feel 
very bad in my stomach and bowels." I asked him if he 
had had any cold by which this illness might have been 
caused ? The sick man replied : " That it could not be cold, 
for he did not know what that was." Then my companion 
turned to me and asked me : " O Iunus, dost thou know 
any remedy for this my friend ?" I replied : " That my 
father was a physician in my country, and that that which I 
knew, I knew by the practice which he had taught me." 
My companion said : " Well, then, let us see if by any 
remedy this merchant, my very dear friend, can be relieved." 
Then I said : " Bizmilei erechman erathin !' n and then I took 
his hand, and, feeling his pulse, found that he had a great 

1 See note 1 on p. 41 ante. 


deal of fever, and I asked him if his head ached. He re- 
plied : " Yes, it aches very much." Then I asked him if 
his bowels were relieved. He answered : " They had not 
been relieved for three days." I immediately thought to 
myself, this man has an overloaded stomach, and to assist 
him he requires an injection; and saying so to my com- 
panion he replied: "Do what you like, so that he be cured." 
Then I made preparation for the injection in this wise : I 
took sugar, eggs, and salt, and for the decoction I took cer- 
tain herbs, which did more harm than good : the said herbs 
Avere such as leaves of walnuts. And in this way, in the course 
of a day and a night, I administered five injections to him; 
and it did him no good on account of the herbs, which pro- 
duced a contrary effect, so that I should have been glad 
had I not been involved in such a task. At length, seeing 
that he could not obtain relief on account of the wretched 
herbs, I took a good bunch of purslain, and made about 
half a jug of liquor, and put in it the same quantity of oil, 
and a good deal of salt and sugar, and then strained it all 
well. And here I committed another blunder, for I forgot 
to warm it, and administered it cold as it was. As soon as 
the injection was administered, I tied a cord to his feet, and 
we hoisted him up until he touched the ground with his 
hands and head, and we held him up thus high for the 
space of half a quarter of an hour. My companion said : 
" O Iunus, is it the custom to do thus in your country ?" 
I replied : " Yes, when the sick man is in extremis." He 
said that that was a good reason, for in that position the 
mixture would penetrate better. The poor sick man cried 
out and said : " Matile, Matile, gnancia tu poi, gnancia tu 
poi !" that is, " No more, no more, for I am killed ; I am 
killed !" and so we standing there to comfort him, whether 
it were God or nature, his bowels began to act like a foun- 
tain, and we immediately let him down ; and truly he was 
relieved to the extent of half a vat full, and he was well 


pleased. On the following day he had neither fever nor pain 
in his head or stomachy and, after that, he was relieved several 

The next morning, he said that he felt pain in his side. 
I made him take cow or buffalo butter and anoint himself 
and bind himself up with hemp tow, and then I told him 
that if he wished to be cured he must eat twice a day, and 
before eating, I wished him to walk a mile on foot. He 
replied : " O nonal irami tino biria biria gnancia tu poi," 
that is, " If you do not wish me to eat more than twice in 
the day, I shall be dead very soon ;" for they eat eight or 
ten times a day. This order appeared to him very severe. 
However, at last he was very well cured, and this gained 
great credit for my hypocrisy. They said that I was the 
friend of God. This merchant wished to give me ten ducats, 
but I would not receive anything. I even gave three ducats 
which I had to the poor, and this I did publicly in order 
that they might know that I did not want any property or 
money. From this time forward happy was he who could 
take me to his house to eat, happy was he who kissed my 
hands and feet ; and when anyone kissed my hands, I kept 
my ground steadily, giving him to understand that he did 
an act which I deserved, as being a saint. But it was my 
companion above all who procured me credit, because he 
also believed me, and said that I did not eat flesh, and that 
he had seen me at Mecca, and at the body of Mahomet, and 
that I had always travelled in his company, and that he 
knew my manners, and that I was truly a saint, and that, 
knowing me to be of a good and holy life, he had given me 
one of his nieces for my wife, so that, in this way every man 
wished me well, and every night I went secretly to talk with 
the Christians, who told me, on one occasion, that twelve 
Portuguese ships had come to Canonor. Then I said, now 
is the time for me to escape from the hands of dogs, and we 
considered together for eight days in what manner I could 


escape. They advised me to escape by land, but I had not 
the courage, through the fear that I might be killed by the 
Moors, I being white and they black. 


One day, while eating with my companion, two Persian 
merchants of Canonor arrived, whom he immediately called 
to eat with him. They answered : " We have no wish to 
eat and bring bad news." We asked them : " What words 
are these which you utter?" They said: "Twelve ships 
of the Portuguese have arrived, which we have seen with 
our eyes." My companion asked : " What people are they?" 
The Persians replied : " They are Christians, and are all 
armed in white arms, and they have commenced building a 
very strong castle in Canonor." 1 My companion turned to 
me and asked me : " O Iunus, what people are these Portu- 
guese ?" I answered him : " Do not speak to me of such a 
race, for they are all thieves and corsairs of the sea, and 1 
should like to see them all of our Mohammedan faith." 
Hearing this he became very malignant, and I rejoiced 
much in my heart. 

1 This must have been towards the end of 1500, and that inference is 
confirmed by the date, 3rd December, given in the chapter succeeding 
the next. In note 2 on pp. 123-4 ante, I have delayed the building of 
the fort at Cannanore till 1507 : it was not probably completed till the 
beginning of that year, for when he reached that place Varthema says : 
" il castello si faceva." The ships mentioned in the text were un- 
doubtedly part of the fleet of Don Francisco de Almeyda, who arrived 
at Cannanore about this time, and received the Rajah's permission to 
erect the fort in the harbour. 





On the following day all the Moors, having heard the 
news, went to the mosque to say their prayers. But first 
some, deputed to this office, mounted the tower of their 
church, as is the custom amongst them three or four times 
a day, and, instead of bells, began with a loud voice to call 
the others to this same prayer, keeping one finger constantly 
in their ear and saying : " Alia u eccubar, Alia u eccubar, aia- 
lassale aialassale aialalfale aialalfale Alia u eccubar leilla illala 
esciadu ana Mahometh resullala," 1 that is, "God is great, God 
is great, come to the church, come to the church, come to 
praise God, come to praise God, God is great, God is great, 
God was, God will be, Mahometh the messenger of God 
will rise again." And they took me also with them, saying 
to me that they wished to pray to God for the Moors ; and 
so they set me publicly to make the prayer, which you shall 
hear, which prayer is as common with them as the Pater 
Noster is with us, and the Ave Maria. The Moors stand 
all in a row ; but there are many rows, and they have a 
priest as we have, who, after they have well washed, begins 
to pronounce the prayer in this manner, saying : " Un 
gibilei nimi saithan e regin bizimilei erachman erachinal 
hamdulile ara blaharami erachman erachin malichi iaum 
edmi iachie nabudu hiachie nesta himi edina sarathel 
mostachina ledina ana antha alyhin gayril magdubin alehy- 

1 Allahu dkbar ! Allahu dkbar ! Hie , ala 's-sald ! Hie hda 's-sala ! 
Hie ''ala H-faldh ! Hie 'ala 'l-fal&h ! Allahu dkbar I La ildh ilia 
Allah; ica-ash-hadna Muhammed rastll Allah. God is most Great! 
God is most Great ! Come to prayer ! Come to prayer ! Come to secu- 
rity ! Come to security ! There is no god but the God, and I testify 
that Muhammed is God's Apostle ! This is the ordinary adhdn or call 
to prayer, chaunted by the miiddh-dhin from the minaret of the 


himu ualla da lim amin alia u eccubar." 1 And so I pro- 
nounced the prayer in the presence of all the people, and 
then I returned home with my companion. On the next day 
I pretended to be very ill, and remained about eight days 
wherein I would not eat with him, but every night I went 
to eat with the two Christians. He [my companion] was 
very much surprised, and asked me why I would not eat. 
I replied : " That I felt very ill, and my head felt as though 
it were very large and full ; and I said to him that it ap- 
peared to me that it proceeded from that air, that it was not 
good for me." He, for the singular affection which he bore 
me, would have done everything to please me ; wherefore, 
hearing that the air of Calicut was injurious to me, he said 
to me : " Go and stay in Canonor until we return to Persia, 
and I will direct you to a friend of mine, who will give you 
all that you require." I answered him : " That I would 
gladly go to Canonor, but I hesitated because of those 
Christians." " Do not hesitate," said he, " nor have any 
fear of them, for you shall remain constantly in the city." 
Finally, having well seen all the fleet which was preparing 
in Calicut, and all the artillery, and the army which had 
been raised against the Christians, I set out on my journey 
to give them notice of it, and to save myself from the hands 
of doers. 


One day, before I set out, I arranged all that I had to do 
with the two Christians, and then my companion placed me 
in the company of those two Persians who carried the news 

1 This is a tolerably correct wording, very badly spelt, of the Fatihah, 
or opening chapter of the Koran, preceded by the common formula of 
renunciation, " I abhor the lapidated Devil." (See note 2 on p. 45 ante.) 
Varthcma, on this occasion, appears to have acted the part of Imam and 
led the prayers of the congregation. 


of the Portuguese, and we took a little bark. Now, you will 
understand in what danger I placed myself, because there 
were twenty-four Persian, Syrian, and Turkish merchants, 
all of whom knew me, and bore me great affection, and 
knew well what the genius of Christians was. I feared that 
if I took leave of them, they would think that I wanted to 
escape to the Portuguese. If I departed without speaking 
with them, and I was by chance discovered, they would have 
said to me : " Why did you not speak to us ?" And this I 
balanced in my mind. However, I determined to go with- 
out speaking to any one excepting my companion. On 
Thursday morning, the third of September, I set out with 
the two Persians by sea, and when we had got about a bow- 
shot in the sea, four Naeri came to the sea-shore, who called 
the captain of the vessel, and we immediately returned to 
land. The Naeri said to the captain : " Why do you carry 
away this man without leave of the king ?" The Persians 
answered : " This man is a Moorish saint, and we are going 
to Canonor." " We know well," said the Naeri, " that he 
is a Moorish saint, but he understands the language of the 
Portuguese, and will tell them all that we are doing here, 
because a great fleet is being got ready ;" and they ordered 
the captain of the ship that he should not take me away 
on any account, and he acted accordingly. We remained 
on the sea-shore, and the Naeri returned to the king's 
house. One of the Persians said : " Let us go to our 
house," that is, to Calicut. I answered : " Do not go, for 
you will lose these fine sinabaph 1 (which were pieces of cloth 
we carried), because you have not paid the king's dues." 
The other Persians said : " O sir, what shall we do ?" I re- 
plied : " Let us go along this shore until we find aparao," 
that is, a small bark ; and they were pleased so to do, and 
we took our way for twelve miles, always by land, laden 
with the said goods. You may imagine how my heart felt, 

' See note 2 on p. 212 ante. 


seeing myself in such danger. At length we found ajxirao 
which carried us to Canonor. We arrived at Canonor on 
Saturday evening, and I immediately carried a letter which 
my companion had written for me to a merchant his friend ; 
the tenor of which letter stated that he should do as much 
for me as for his own person until he came ; and he told him 
about my being a saint, and of the relationship there was 
between him and me. The merchant, as soon as he had 
read the letter, laid it on his head and said, that he would 
answer for me with his head ; and immediately had an excel- 
lent supper prepared, with many chickens and pigeons. 
When the two Persians saw the chickens come, they ex- 
claimed : " Alas, what do you do ?" Colli tinu ille," that is, 
" This man does not eat flesh ;" and other things came im- 
mediately. When we had finished eating, the said Persians 
said to me : " Let us go a little to the sea to amuse our- 
selves ;" and so we went where the Portuguese fleet was. 
Imagine, O reader, the joy I felt. Going a little farther, I 
saw before a certain low house three empty casks, from 
which I imagined that the factory of the Christians was 
there. Then, being somewhat cheered up, I felt a desire to 
escape within the said gate ; but I considered that, if I did 
so in their presence, the whole country would be in an 
uproar. And I, not being able to fly in safety, noted the 
place where the castle of the Christians was being made, 
and determined to "wait until the following day. 


On Sunday morning I rose early, and said that I would 
go to amuse myself a little. My companions answered: "Go 
where you please ;" and so I took my way according to my 
fancy, and went where the castle of the Christians was being 


built ; and when I was a little distant from my companions, 
coming to the sea-shore I met two Portuguese Christians, 
and said to them : " O sirs, where is the fortress of the Por- 
tuguese ?" These two Christians said : " Are you a Chris- 
tian ?" I answered ; " Yes, sir, praised be God." And they 
said to me : " Where do you come from." I answered 
them : " I come from Calicut." Then said the one to the 
other of the two companions : " Go you to the factory, and 
I will take this man to Don Lorenzo," that is, the son of 
the Viceroy. 1 And so he conducted me to the said castle, 
which is distant from the beach half a mile. And when 
we arrived at the said castle, the Seiior Don Lorenzo was 
at breakfast. I immediately fell on my knees at the feet 
of his lordship and said : "■ Sir, I commend myself to you 
to save me, for I am a Christian." At this juncture, 
we heard a great uproar in the neighbourhood because 
I had escaped. The bombardiers were immediately sum- 
moned, who loaded all the artillery, fearing that those of 
the city might come to the castle to fight. Then the captain, 
seeing that those of the place did not do any harm, took me 
by the hand and conducted me into a chamber to interro- 
gate me concerning the affairs of Calicut, and kept me three 
days to talk with me ; and I, being desirous of the victory of 
the Christians, gave them all the particulars about the fleet 
preparing in Calicut. These conversations being concluded, 

1 After garrisoning the new fort at Cannqnore, Don Francisco de 
Almeyda proceeded to Cochin, but hearing there that the factor at 
Quilon and all his men had been murdered by the Mussulmans, " he 
sent his son Don Lorenzo with three ships and three caravels, with 
orders to procure lading, without taking notice of what had passed, but 
in case of denial, to avenge the slaughter. The messenger was received 
with a shower of arrows, and twenty-four ships of Calicut and other places 
prepared to receive ours. Don Lorenzo, after pouring in his shot liberally, 
burnt them all, only a few of the Moors were saved by swimming. Don 
Lorenzo then went to load in another port." (Portuguese Asia, vol. i. 
p. 102.) I presume that it was about this time that Varthema met the 
Viceroy's son at Cannanore. 


he sent me with a galley to the Viceroy his father in Cuccin, 1 
of which a knight named Joan Sarrano 2 was captain. The 
Viceroy was exceedingly pleased when I arrived, and showed 
me great distinction, because I had informed him of all that 
was doing in Calicut; and I also said, that if his lordship 
would pardon loan-Maria and Piero Antonio, who made 
artillery in Calicut, and assure me of their safety, that I 
would induce them to return, and that they would not do 
that injury to Christians which they had done, although 
against their will, and that they were afraid to return with- 
out a safe conduct. The Viceroy was extremely pleased 
and much satisfied, and gave me the safe conduct; and 
the captains of our ships and our vicar promised for the 
Viceroy ; and at the end of three days he sent me back with 
the said galley to Caiionor, and gave me a letter which he 
addressed to his son, that he should give me as much money 
as I required for payment of the spies to be sent to Calicut. 
When we had arrived at Canonor, I found a Pagan, who 
gave me his wife and children as a pledge, and I sent him 
with my letters to Calicut, to loan-Maria and Piero Antonio, 
by which I advised them how the Viceroy had pardoned 
them, and that they might come in safety. You must know 
that I sent the spy five times backwards and forwards, and 
that I always wrote to them that they should be on their 
guard, and should not trust their wives or their slave ; for 
each of them had- a wife, and loan-Maria had a son and a 
slave. They always wrote to me that they would come will- 
ingly. In the last letter they said to me thus: " Lodovico, 
we have given all our goods to this spy ; come on such a 
night with a galley or brigantine where the fishermen are, 
because there is no watch in that part, and, if it please God, 

1 Cochin. 

~ This Joiio Serrao subsequently accompanied the expedition under 
D. Antao do Noronha to El-Catif and the ishind of Hormuz in the Per- 
sian Gulf. See De Couto, Decadas, vol. iii. pp. 247, 439. 


we will both come with all our party." You must know 
that I wrote to them that they should come alone, and that 
they should leave their wives, their son, their goods, and 
the slave, and that they should only bring their jewels and 
money. And you must know that they had a diamond 
which weighed thirty-two carats, which they said was worth 
thirty-five thousand ducats ; and they had a pearl which 
weighed twenty-four carats ; and they had two thousand 
rubies, which weighed a carat and a carat and a half each ; 
and they had sixty-four rings with set jewels ; and they had 
one thousand four hundred pardai ; and they also wished to 
save seven spingarde and three apes, and two civet-cats, 
and the wheel for repairing jewels; so that their avarice 
caused their death. Their slave, who was of Calicut, saw 
that they wanted to escape, and immediately went to the 
king and told him everything. The king did not believe 
him. Nevertheless, he sent five Naeri to their house to 
remain in their company. The slave, seeing that the king 
would not put them to death, went to tlje Cadi of the faith 
of the Moors, and repeated to him those same words which 
he had said to the king, and, moreover, he told him that 
they informed the Christians of all that was done in Calicut. 
The Moorish Cadi held a council with all the Moorish mer- 
chants, amongst whom were collected one hundred ducats, 
which they carried to the king of the Gioghi, 1 who was at 
that time in Calicut with three thousand Gioghi, to whom 
the said Moors said : " Sir, thou knowest that in other years 
when thou hast come here we have shown thee much kind- 
ness, and more honour than we show thee now ; the reason 
is this : there are here two Christians who are enemies of 
our faith and yours, who inform the Portuguese of all that 
is done in this country ; wherefore, we beseech thee to kill 
them, and to take these hundred ducats." The king of the 
Gioghi immediately sent two hundred men to kill the said 
1 See note 1 on p 111, and note 3 on p. 112 ante. 



two Christians, and when they went to their house, they 
began by tens to sound their horns and demand alms. And 
when the Christians saw so many people increasing they 
said : " These want something else besides alms ;" and 
began to fight, so that these two killed six of them, and 
wounded more than forty. At last, these Gioghi cast at 
them certain pieces of iron which are made round like a 
wheel, and they threw them with a sling, and struck loan- 
Maria on the head and Pietro Antonio on the head, so that 
they fell to the ground ; and then they ran upon them and 
cut open the veins of their throats, and with their hands 
they drank their blood. The wife of loan-Maria escaped 
with her son to Canonor, and I purchased the son for eight 
ducats of gold, and had him baptized on St. Lawrence's day, 
and gave him the name of Lorenzo, because I baptized him 
on that same day, and at the end of a year on that same day 
he died of the French disease. You must know that I have 
seen this disease three thousand miles beyond Calicut, and 
it is called ptca, 1 ^nd they say that it is about seventeen 
years since it began, and it is much worse than ours. 


On the twelfth of March 1506, 2 this news of the Christians 
being killed arrived. On this same day the immense fleet 

1 Probably from the Sanscrit pi'tya, matter from an ulcer. Var- 
thema's remark on the recent appearance of the disease •would imply- 
that it was introduced into India by the Portuguese. 

2 The year 1506 here given is somewhat perplexing. In Greene's 
Collection the fleet under Don Francisco de Almeyda is made to leave 
Lisbon on the 25th of March 1507, whereas the Modem Universal 
History, after Maffei, starts them from that port on the 25th of March 
1505, which I take to be the correct date. On the 11th of April follow- 
ing, De Almeyda reached the Cape Vcrd Islands, from whence he pro- 
ceeded to the east coast of Africa, and after taking Quiloa (Kilwah) and 


departed from Pannani, 1 and from Calicut, and from Capo- 
gat, and from Pandarani, and from Tormapatan. 3 All this 
fleet was two hundred and nine sail, of which eighty-four 
were large ships, and the remainder were rowing vessels, 
that is, paraos. In which fleet there was an infinite number 
of armed Moors ; and they wore certain red garments of 
cloth stuffed with cotton, and they wore certain large caps 
stuffed, and also on the arms bracelets and gloves stuffed ; 
and a great number of bows and lances, swords and shields, 
and large and small artillery after our custom. When we 
saw this fleet, which was on the 16th of the month above- 
mentioned, truly, seeing so many ships together, it appeared 
as though one saw a very large wood. We Christians 
always hoped that God would aid us to confound the Pagan 
faith. And the most valiant knight, the captain of the fleet, 
son of Don Francisco dal Meda, Viceroy of India, was here 
with eleven ships, amongst which there were two galleys 
and one brigantine. When he saw such a multitude of 

Mombasa, steered towards India, visited the island of Anjediva, touched 
next at Honahwar, aud finally arrived at Cannanore, where he received 
permission to build a fort. I have hitherto supposed it unlikely that 
these different transactions were accomplished by the end of 1505 ; 
nevertheless, it is still more improbable that Varthema should be mis- 
taken in this and the succeeding dates ; hence, by postponing the erec- 
tion of the fort at Cannanore till the end of 1506, (see note 1 on p. 266 
ante) I have miscalculated by one entire year. 

I perceive that Greene also delays the battle recorded in this chapter, 
and the subsequent attack on Ponani, till 150S, which is unquestionably 
wrong ; for Varthema mentions Guidobaldo, Duke of Urbino, as being- 
alive when he dedicated his book to the Lady Aguesina, the Duke's 
sister. This was after his return to Europe, and Guidobaldo died on the 
11th of April 1508. 

Presuming Varthema's dates to be correct, his eastern voyages and 
travels from the day he left Damascus, 8th April 1503, until his return 
to India, occupied two years and nine months. If we add thereto the 
eighteen months during which he acted as factor at Cochin, and the 
time expended on the return voyage, his total absence from Europe will 
amount to about five years. 

1 See note 1 on p. 132. - See note 1 on p. 131 ante. 

T 2 


ships, he acted like a most valiant captain : he called to him 
all his knights and men of the said ships, and then began to 
exhort and beseech them that, for the love of God and of 
the Christian faith, they would expose themselves willingly 
to suffer death, saying in this wise : " O sirs, O brothers, 
now is the day that we must remember the Passion of Christ, 
and how much pain He endured to redeem us sinners. Now 
is that day when all our sins will be blotted out. For this 
I beseech you that we determine to go vigorously against 
these dogs; for I hope that God will give us the victory, and 
will not choose that His faith should fail." And then the 
spiritual father stood upon the ship of the said captain, with 
the crucifix in his hand, and delivered a beautiful discourse 
to all, exhorting us to do that which we were bound to do. 
And then he gave us absolution from punishment and sin, 
and said : " Now, my sons, let us all go willingly, for God 
will be with us." And he knew so well how to speak, that 
the greater part of us wept, and prayed God that He would 
cause us to die in that battle. In the meantime the immense 
fleet of the Moors came towards us to pass by. On that 
same day, our captain departed with two ships and went 
towards the Moors, and passed between two ships, which 
Mere the largest in the Moorish fleet. And when he passed 
between the said ships, he saluted both of them with very 
great discharges of artillery ; and this our captain did in 
order to know these two ships, and how they behaved ; for 
they carried very great ensigns, and were captains of all the 
fleet. Nothing more was done that day. Early on the fol- 
lowing morning, the Moors began all to make sail and come 
towards the city of Canonor, and sent to our captain to say 
that he should let them pass and go on their voyage, for 
they did not wish to fight with Christians. Our captain 
sent to them to say, that the Moors of Calicut would not 
allow Christians to return who were staying in Calicut in 
their faith, but killed forty-eight of them, and robbed them 


of three thousand ducats between goods. and money. And 
then he said to them : "Pass, if pass you can, but first know 
what sort of people Christians are." Said the Moors : 
" Our Mahomet will defend us from you Christians ;" and 
so began all to sail with the greatest fury, wishing to pass, 
and they always navigate near the land, eight or ten miles. 
Our captain allowed them to come until they arrived oppo- 
site the city of Canonor. Our captain did this because the 
king of Canonor was looking on, and to show him how great 
was the courage of the Christians. And when it was the 
time for eating, the wind began to freshen a little, and our 
captain said : " Now, up brothers, for now is the time ; for 
we are all good knights ;" and began to go towards these 
two largest ships. It would be impossible to describe to 
you the kinds of instruments which they sounded, accord- 
ing to their custom. Our captain grappled valiantly with 
one of the ships of the Moors, that is, the largest, and three 
times the Moors threw off our grappling-irons ; at the fourth 
time we remained fast, and immediately our Christians leaped 
on board the said ship, in which there were six hundred 
Moors. Here, a most cruel battle was fought with immense 
effusion of blood, so that not one escaped from this ship : 
they were all killed. Then our captain went to find the 
other very large ship of the Moors, which was now grappled 
fast by another of our ships ; and here also a cruel battle 
was fought, in which five hundred Moors died. When 
these two large ships were taken, all the rest of the fleet of 
the Moors fought with desperation, and divided our sixteen 
ships, so that there were some of our ships which had around 
them fifteen or twenty of those of the Moors to fight. It 
was a beautiful sight to see the gallant deeds of a very 
valiant captain, loan Sarano, who, with a galley made such 
a slaughter of the Moors as it is impossible to describe. 
And there was a time when he had around his galley fifty 
vessels, some with oars and some with sails, and all with 


artillery. And by the grace of God, neither in the galley nor 
in the ships was any one of the Christians killed, but many 
were wounded, for the fighting lasted all that day. Once 
our brigantine separated a little from the ships, and was im- 
mediately placed in the middle of four of the Moorish ships ; 
and they fought her sharply, and at one time fifteen Moors 
were on the brigantine, so that the Christians had all with- 
drawn to the poop. When the valiant captain named 
Simon Martin 1 saw that there were so many Moors upon 
the brigantine, he leaped amongst these dogs, and said : 
" O Jesus Christ, give us the victory ! help thy faith !" and 
with the sword in his hand he cut off the heads of six or 
seven. All the other Moors threw themselves into the sea 
and fled, some here, some there. When the other Moors saw 
that this brigantine had gained the victory, four other ships 
went to succour their people. The captain of the brigan- 
tine, seeing the said Moors coming, immediately took a 
barrel which had contained powder, and then he took a 
piece of a sail and thrust it in the bung-hole of the said 
barrel, which appeared like the stone of a mortar, and he 
put a handful of powder over the barrel, and standing with 
fire in his hand, made as though he were going to fire a 
mortar. The Moors, seeing this, thought that the said barrel 
was a mortar, and immediately turned back. And the said 
captain withdrew where the Christians were with his brigan- 
tine, victorious. Our captain then placed himself amongst 
these dogs, of whom seven ships were captured, laden in part 
with spices and in part with other merchandise ; and nine 
or ten were sunk by our artillery, amongst which there was 
one laden with elephants. When the Moors saw so many 
of their ships sunk, and that the two ships, the captains of 
the fleet and others were taken, they immediately took to 

1 Though I do not find this officer specially mentioned elsewhere, 
there appear to have been several Portuguese naval commanders named 
Marlins engaged in India at this period. See De Couto, Index-, p. 197. 


flight, some one way, some another, some by land, some by 
sea, some in the port, some in the opposite direction. At 
the conclusion, our captain, seeing all our ships safe, said: 
" Praised be Jesus Christ, let us follow up our victory 
against these dogs ;" and so we all together set ourselves to 
follow them. Truly, to any one who had seen these dogs 
fly, it would have appeared that they had a fleet of a hun- 
dred ships behind them. And this battle commenced with 
the hour for eating, and lasted until the evening. And then 
they were pursued all night, so that all this fleet was put to 
flight without the death of a single Christian ; and our ships 
which remained here followed another large ship, which was 
tacking out at sea. Finally our ships prevailed over theirs, 
which was surrounded by us, so that all the Moors cast 
themselves [into the sea] to swim, and we constantly followed 
them to the shore in the skiff, with crossbows and lances 
killing and wounding them. But some saved themselves by 
dint of swimming, and these were as many as two hundred 
persons, who swam more than twenty miles, sometimes 
under and sometimes on the water, and sometimes we 
thought they were dead, when they rose again to the sur- 
face a crossbow-shot distant from us. And when we came 
near them to kill them, thinking that they were exhausted, 
they dived again under the water ; so that their being able 
to continue swimming so long appeared like a very great 
miracle. At last, however, the greater part were killed, 
and their ship sank from the blows of our artillery. On 
the following morning, our captain sent the galleys, the 
brigantine, with some other vessels, along the shore, to see 
what bodies they could count. They found that those who 
were killed on the shore and at sea, and those of the ships 
taken, were counted at three thousand six hundred dead 
bodies. You must know that many others were killed when 
they took to flight, who threw themselves into the sea. 
The king of Canonor, seeing all this battle, said : " These 


Christians are very brave and valiant men." And truly I 
have found myself in some battles in my time, but I never 
saw any men more brave than these Portuguese. The next 
day after, we returned to our Viceroy, who was at Cuccin. 
I leave you to imagine how great was the joy of the Vice- 
roy and of the king of Cuccin, who is a true friend of the 
king of Portugal, on seeing us return victorious. 1 


Let us leave the fleet of the king of Calicut, which was 
defeated, and return to my own affairs. At the end of three 
months, the Viceroy gave me, of his favour, a certain office, 
which was that of the factorship of these parts, and I re- 
mained in this office about a year and a half. Some months 
afterwards, my lord the Viceroy sent me by a ship to Cano- 
nor, because many merchants of Calicut went to Canonor, 
and took the safe conduct from the Christians by giving 

1 Be Souza's account of this action is as follows : — " Whilst these 
things happened at Zofala, [Sofiila, on the east coast of Africa,] the 
Zaruorin of Calicut had stirred up the Soldan of Cayre, [Cairo,] and 
hoped, with his assistance to drive us out of these seas ; this was not so 
private but that the king of Cochin had intelligence of it, and advertised 
the Viceroy Bon Francisco, who sent his son Lawrence with eleven sail 
to prevent or put a stop to the design. As he visited some ports, news 
was brought to him that in the road of Cananor was a fleet of two hun- 
dred and sixty paraos, whereof sixty exceeded our ships in bulk. He 
directs his course towards them, and after a very sharp engagement 
they were put to flight, pursued, and some taken, but many sunk and 
obliged to run aground, with great loss to the enemy, and of his own 
only five or six men." (Portuguese Asia, vol. i. p. 108.) Brief as this 
description is, it coincides in several particulars with Varthema's more 
detailed narrative : as, for example, in ascribing the command of the 
Portuguese fleet to the Viceroy's son ; in the approximate number of 
vessels on both sides ; in the trifling loss to the Europeans and the 
great slaughter of the native combatants ; and in the eventual escape of 
many of the enemy's ships. 


them to understand that they were of Canonor, and that 
they wished to pass with merchandise in the ships of Cano- 
nor, and which was not true. Wherefore, the Viceroy sent 
me to these merchants, and to understand these frauds. It 
happened at this time that the king of Canonor died, and 
the next king that was made was a great enemy of ours ; 
wherefore the king of Calicut made him [king] by force of 
money, and lent him twenty-three pieces of artillery {bocche 
di fuoco). In 1507, there commenced a very great war on 
the 27th of April, and it continued until the 17th of August. 
Now, you shall understand what the Christian faith is, and 
what sort of men the Portuguese are. One day, the Chris- 
tians going to get water, the Moors assaulted them, through 
the great hatred they bore us. Our people retired into the 
fortress, which was now in a good state, and no harm was 
done on that day. Our captain, who was called Lorenzo 
de Britto,sent to inform the Viceroy, who was at Cuccin, of 
this new occurrence ; and Don Lorenzo immediately came 
with a caravella, furnished with everything that was neces- 
sary, and at the expiration of four days the said Don Lorenzo 
returned to Cuccin, and we remained to fight with these 
dogs, and we were not more than two hundred men. Our 
food consisted solely of rice, sugar, and nuts, and we had no 
water to drink within the castle ; but twice a week we were 
obliged to take water from a certain well, which was a bow- 
shot distant from the castle. And every time we went for 
water, we always were obliged to take it by force of arms; and 
every time we skirmished with them, the least people that 
came were twenty-four thousand, and sometimes there were 
thirty thousand, forty thousand, and fifty thousand persons, 
who had bows, lances, swords, and shields, with more than 
one hundred and forty pieces of artillery between large and 
small, and they wore a kind of armour, as I have explained 
to you in the fleet of Calicut. Their fighting was in this 
wise : Two or three thousand came on at a time, and bring- 


ing with them the sounds of divers instruments, and with 
fireworks, and they ran with such fury, that truly they would 
have inspired with fear ten thousand people ; but the most 
valiant Christians went to meet them beyond the well, and 
they never approached the fortress within two stones'-cast. 
We were obliged to be on our guard, both before and 
behind, because sometimes there came of these Moors by 
sea with sixty praos to take us in the midst of them. Never- 
theless, every day we fought we killed ten, fifteen, and 
twenty of them, and not more, because as soon as they saw 
some of their people killed they took to flight. But on one 
occasion, amongst others, a mortar called the Serpent, at one 
discharge killed eighteen of them, and they never killed 
one of us. They said that we kept the devil, who defended 
us. This war from the twenty-seventh of April never ceased 
until the twenty-seventh of August. Then the fleet of the 
Portuguese came, of which the most valiant knight Tristan 
da Cugna was captain ; to which, when it arrived at Ca- 
nonor, we signalled that we were at war ; and the prudent 
captain immediately had all the boats of the fleet armed, 
and sent us three hundred knights all armed in white 
armour, so that, had it not been for our captain, as soon as 
they landed we would have gone to burn the whole of the 
city of Canonor. Think, O kind reader, what was our joy 
when we saw such succour ; for, in truth, we were almost 
exhausted, and the greater part were wounded. When the 
Moors saw our fleet arrive, they sent an ambassador, who 
was named Mamal Maricar, who was the richest man in the 
country, and he came to demand peace ; wherefore we sent 
at once to the Viceroy, who was in Cuccin, to know what 
was to be done. The Viceroy sent to say, that we should 
make peace without delay, and so it was done. 1 And this he 

1 De Faria y Souza's account of the origin of this rupture with the 
Rajah of Cannanore, of the attack made upon the Portuguese fort, and 
the opportune arrival of Tristan de Cunna, who was on his way to 


did only that he might be able to load the ships and send 
them to Portugal. Four days being past, there came two 

Europe after having, in concert with Albuquerque, taken possession of 
the island of Socotra and left a garrison there, is as follows : — " The 
king of Cananor, desiring to break with the Portuguese, was encouraged 
by the Zamorin, and grounded this rupture on finding on the shore the 
body of the nephew of Mainale, a rich merchant of Malabar, which was 
one of those Goncalo Vaz had thrown into the sea sewed up in a sail. 
This action was not known then, and the blame was laid on Laurence 
de Brito, captain of the fort, whose pass that ship carried. [This refers 
to a vessel which Vaz had unjustly seized, putting all the crew and 
passengers to death, whose bodies he subsequently caused to be sewed 
up in a sail in order to prevent their floating to land.] The message 
was delivered to him at church whilst he assisted at the service of 
Maundy Thursday, and he immediately left the church, and went about 
taking up from every one what provisions they had, and shipped the 
men with such haste, [i.e. sent them to the fort in boats,] that those 
who had lent their arms to those who watched at the sepulchre [the 
imitation of the Sepulchre of Christ which is set up in Roman Catholic 
churches during Holy Week] went to the church to disarm them. Don 
Loreuzo was captain, and had orders when he came to Cananor to obey 
Lorenzo de Brito ; but Brito insisted that the other, as the son of the 
Viceroy, and so famous an officer, should command. Don Lorenzo was 
positive he would obey Brito as being commander of the fort, and in 
pursuance of his father's orders ; but finding Brito resolved to persist in 
that courtesie, and that it might prove dangerous, he left the relief, 
and returned alone to Cochin. ..The besieged fortified and entrenched 
themselves, the same was done by the besiegers, who were twenty thou- 
sand strong. Much blood was spilt about the water of a well, but our 
men, by help of a mine, made themselves masters of it. The Moors after 
this loss retired to a wood of palm-trees, and prepared engines to batter 
the fort. Our commander had intelligence of it by means of a nephew 
of the king of Cananor, who endeavoured to gain our friendship. He 
prepared to receive them, and when they gave the assault, succeeded so 
well, first with cannon, and then with the sword, that he filled the ditch 
with their bodies, which they intended to have done with faggots. They 
returned to the wood, and Brito sending out by night eighty men, com- 
manded by one Guadalajara, a Spaniard, who was his lieutenant, the 
sally was so vigorously executed by the firing of some small pieces first, 
in a cold rainy night, that the enemy in consternation knew not where 
to save themselves : three hundred were killed. But this joy was abated 
by the magazine of provisions taking fire, so that hunger began to rage, 
and all vermin was eaten. The garrison, part sick and part famished, 


merchants of Canonor, who were friends of mine before war 
had been made, and they spoke with me in this manner, as 
you shall understand. " Fattore, on maniciar in ghene ballia 
nochignan candile ornal patu maniciar patance maniciar 
hiriva tu maniciar cia tu poi nal nur malabari nochi ornal 
totu ille cura po;" that is, " O factor, show me a man who is 
a brazzo larger than any of you, who every day has killed 
ten, fifteen, and twenty of us, and the Naeri were sometimes 
four hundred and five hundred firing at him and never once 
could they touch him." I answered him in this manner : 
" Idu manicar nicando inghene ille Cocin poi;" that is, 
" This man is not here, but is gone to Cocin." Then I 
thought that this was other than a Christian, and I said to 
him : " Giangal ingabani manaton undo." One of them 
answered: "Undo." I said to him: "Idu maniciar ni- 
cando Portogal ille." He replied : " Sui e indi." I said : 
" Tamarani Portugal idu." He answered : " Tamerani ni 
Patanga cioli ocha malamar Patangnu idu Portogal ille 
Tamaran Portugal piga nammi ;" that is, I said to him : 
" My friend, come here, that knight whom thou hast seen is 
not a Portuguese, but he is the God of the Portuguese and 
of all the world." He replied : " By God, thou sayest the 
truth ; for all the Naeri said that that was not a Portuguese, 
but that he was their God, and that the God of the Chris- 
tians was better than theirs, and they did not know him, so 
that it appeared to "all that it was a miracle of God." See 
what kind of people they are, who stood sometimes ten and 

was reduced to extremity ; but the sea being then rough left abundance 
of lobsters when it went off the point of land where our chapel was, 
which was the only relief the men had. The Zamorin sent a powerful 
supply to the king of Cananor, who gave the last assault to the fort by 
sea and land with above fifty thousand men, who were vigorously re- 
ceived and repulsed with great loss, not one of our men being killed in 
the action. But now arrived Tristan de Cunna, and the king of Cananor, 
terrified with his coming, and the defence made by Brito, sues for peace, 
which was concluded with great honour to the Portuguese valour." 
Portuguese Asia, vol. i. pp. 121-124. 


twelve hours to see our bell ring, and looked upon it as 
something miraculous, and when the bell did not ring any 
longer, they said in this wise : " Idu maniciar totu, idu 
parangnu tot ille parangnu ille Tamarani Portogal perga nan 
nu;" that is, " These people touch that bell and it speaks ; 
when they do not touch it any longer it does not speak any 
more; this God of Portugal is very good." And, again, 
some of these Moors were present at our mass, and when 
the body of Christ was shown, I said to them : " That is the 
God of Portugal, and of the Pagans, and of all the world." 
And they replied : " You say the truth, but we do not know 
Him ;" wherefore it may be understood that they sin without 
knowledge. 1 There are, however, some of these who are 

1 Varthema seems to have rehabilitated himself as a devout Romanist, 
as easily as he had doffed his five years' profession of Islam. His apology 
for the ignorance of the natives does him more credit than his pious 
fraud to impress them in favour of Christianity. It may fairly be ques- 
tioned, however, whether these people were as credulous as he repre- 
sents them ; I think it more likely that, if Muhammedans, they would 
have listened to his theology with supreme disgust. The narrative re- 
minds me of the case of a learned and wealthy Tunisian, who visited 
Malta about twenty-five years ago on his way to Europe, bent on seeing 
something of the civilization of the West. One day he called upon me 
in a state of great excitement, and on inquiring the cause, he told me 
that he had gone to inspect the Arabic class at the Normal School at- 
tached to the Government University, and that while there, an ablate, 
who was among the pupils, insisted on drawing him into a religious 
discussion, in the course of which he ridiculed some of the doctrines of 
the Koran. The young Tunisian, who was remarkably courteous in his 
demeanour, quietly asked him to explain the doctrine of the Trinity, 
promising in case of conviction that he would at once embrace Chris- 
tianity. Whereupon the ablate, taking up his three-cornered hat, re- 
quested him to handle each corner successively. This done, the zealot 
said : " How many angles are there 1" To which the other replied : 
" Three." " And how many hats are there ?" The implied deduction 
so horrified the pious Mussulman, that he left the school forthwith, and 
came to inquire of me whether such blasphemous comparisons formed a 
part of Christian theology. 

The natives of India were well acquainted with the use of bells long 
before the arrival of the Portuguese ; so that our author must have been 


great enchanters. We have seen them grasp serpents which, 
if they touch [bite ?] any one, he immediately falls to the 
earth dead. Also I tell you that they are the greatest and 
the most expert workmen, I believe, in all the world. 


Now, the time approached for the return homewards, for 
the captain of the fleet began to load the ships to return to 
Portugal, and I, having been seven years from my own house, 
and from my love and good feeling towards my country, 
and also in order that I might carry to it an account of a 
great part of the world, was constrained to ask leave of my 
lord the Viceroy, which of his grace he granted to me, and 
said that he wished me first to go with him where you shall 
know. Wherefore, he and all his company put ourselves in 
order in white armour, so that few people remained in 
Cucin, and on the twenty-fourth of November of the year 
abovementioned we made the assault within the port of 
Pannani. On that day we came before the city of Pannani. 
On the next morning, two hours before day, the Viceroy 
summoned all the boats of the ships with all the people of 
the fleet, and told them how that was the country which made 
war upon us more than any other country in India, and 

sadly at a loss for an exemplification of Mussulman or Hindu ignorance, 
when he adduced in proof of it their wonderment on hearing the tolling 
of the church bell. 

1 This is the Pananie of Barbosa, the Ponani o